The FEZ group has only recently been established and hence so far we had no PhD student graduating from our group. This year was the premiere. Jose successfully defended his thesis with much appraisal by his opponents. Given the circumstances of this year it was a digital one as well as one of the longest in the recent history.
The title of Jose’s thesis was “On the origin of cryptic species: Insights from the Stygocapitella species complex”. He worked on the genus Stygocapitella using different molecular techniques from few molecular markers to genome-level data. This genus comprises tiny worms of no more than 3 mm body length, which live in sandy beaches around and above the high waterline. So beneath your beach towel. They can be found all round the world except for the subtropics and tropics.
His thesis comprised several papers. The last one of them, we just submitted a revised version. In these papers he showed some amazing stuff. Instead of one there are at least 12 species in the genus, many of them are morphological completely identical. It is not possible to differentiate them even using measurements like size. Using genome-level data, he could also show that the morphological similarity probably stems from retention of ancient characters and clearly not from ongoing hybridization. More astonishingly, several of these species did not change their morphological appearance for more than tens of millions of year. So, they were already around when the dinosaurs still walked the authors and we would be able to recognize them as they just looked like they do today.
At the end of his PhD Jose also went for a 9-month internship to Berkeley to work with Rosemarie Gillespie on the genomics of spiders from Hawaii and now he is working on his first PostDoc position with Mike Martin in Trondheim on the DarwinPlants project.
Text in the teaser: Working on a beach can this get you anywhere? Wanna know, look at December 2nd.
Pictures in the teaser: