Current Lab Members


Dr. Mark Aulyia

Wildlife trade, conservation biology at the science-policy interface

Prof. Dr. Hinrich Kaiser

Dr. Markus Lambertz

My primary research interests span across the evolutionary and functional morphology of vertebrates. Although I have no taxonomic restrictions, my main focus lies on amphibians and especially reptiles. Particularly the respiratory apparatus and its evolution is the central theme of my research in these various taxa. The main questions I am interested in concern the origin, development, anatomical diversity and function of gas exchangers (mainly lungs), as well as ventilatory mechanisms. The phylogenetic history and relationships of the organisms in question always provides the framework for all of these considerations and my research involves the extant and the extinct diversity of organisms. I routinely employ traditional gross anatomical dissections and embryology, various histological and morphometric approaches, modern digital imaging procedures, phylogenetic reconstructions, and different modeling approaches to address these questions at a comparative level. The current lead of my research is aimed at expanding the developmental aspects and at the integration of morphological and genetic data.
I am furthermore highly interested in fundamental faunistic issues such as the distribution, ecological interactions, and general phylogeny of a wide variety of organisms, including but not limited to all sorts of vertebrates, odonates and parasites. My interests in nomenclatural theory and application combine well with my interests in the history of science and early scientific literature.

Dr. Sylvia Hofmann

Understanding current patterns of diversity and distribution: How and when did Himalayan faunal elements evolve? The uplift of the Himalaya-Tibet Orogen (HTO) has significantly influenced the global climate and due to its massive elevations and river incisions it likely acts as a ‘species pump’. However, our understanding of the historical biogeography of species in the HTO is far from being comprehensive, as are details of the spatiotemporal evolution of its uplift. The Himalaya plays a key role in elucidating these processes.

Dr. Jendrian Riedel

I am broadly interested in macroevolution and ecomorphology. The focus of my research is on evolutionary changes of morphological traits in relation to ecological niches, usually with lizards as model organisms. For my research, I routinely combine modern digital imaging procedures, morphometrics, performance experiments, and comparative phylogenetic methods. Recurrent research Questions concern the locomotor apparatus and reptile skin microornamentation.
Presently I am working as a Walther Benjamin Fellow on the evolution of incipiently developed adhesive toepads in the hyperdiverse tropical Asian gecko genus Cyrtodactylus. Cyrtodactylus provides an excellent model for understanding the evolution of gecko toepads and adaptation to different substrates. The genus includes substrate specialists, generalists, and terrestrial forms. Existing data indicate that the genus exhibits the incipient development of adhesive toepads, which characterize many but not all climbing geckos. In this project funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), I will combine modern morphological techniques (e.g., scanning electron microscopy, computer tomography) with functional experiments and ecological data to reconstruct the evolution of adhesive toepads, and to understand the role of incipient adhesive structures in the locomotion of geckos. This will help us to understand why, and under which circumstances, adhesive toepads start to evolve, and how the potentially gradual evolution of toepads takes place.

Doctoral students

Michele Chiacchio

Impacts of winter tourism on habitat quality for selected amphibian and reptile species.

Vic F. Clement

Establishing an extensive ecological profile of a population is of utmost importance in conservation efforts and landscape management. The sand lizard (Lacerta agilis LINNAEUS, 1758) is a widely spread Eurasian species that prefer open to half-open habitats. This includes areas in close proximity to humans like road and railroad edges or quarries. Therefore, the species is often victim of disturbances, destruction, or fragmentation of its habitat and therefore subject to a lot of compensative measures. These measures are most effective when matched to the ecology of the population in question. Hence, the aim of this project is to establish an efficient method to assess ecology of a population of small animals using a sand lizard population in the Dellbrücker Heide in Cologne as an example. For this, classic visual encounter studies are used in concert with radio telemetry to assess home ranges and high-resolution drone recordings to assess habitat preference in order to assemble an as complete as possible ecological profile. The profile includes animal activity in relation to weather and temperature, home range density, and habitat preference.

Philipp Ginal

Invasion biology of amphibians and reptiles: a macroecological perspective

Daniel Grundmann

Ecophsyology of snake strikes

Andre Vincente Liz

Comparative phylogeography of the Sahara-Sahel: integrating spatial and temporal approaches to understand biodiversity dynamics in deserts and arid regionsDescription of project: This work aims to understand the biogeographic and biodiversity dynamics driven by Plio-Pleistocene dry/humid climatic cycles in the Sahara-Sahel desert. The main objectives are to test: i) climate-induced allopatric speciation as the main diversification agent; ii) biodiversity refugia and dispersal corridors; iii) relationships between genetic diversity and environmental-dependent taxa persistence in refugia.

Eva M. Meyers

The critically endangered Angel Shark (Squatina squatina) has suffered a vast fragmentation of its former distribution range, leaving the Canary Islands as a unique “hotspot” where this Angel Shark can be regularly encountered.

Ruth A. Regnet

Nicholas W. C. Tan

Fragmentation of the natural environment has contributed to major biodiversity loss in South East Asia. Reptiles represent a significant biomass and occupy important functions in our ecosystem. However, these organisms are highly sensitive to relatively minor changes in temperature and habitat alteration. In this study, we will investigate the effects of habitat fragmentation and potentially climate change on agamids at several sites in Southeast Asia. We will identify the species richness of agamids, their habitat use, and their diet.

Marcos F. Vila Nova

Bothrops jararacussu is the largest species within the genus Bothrops and one of which has the venom more toxic to humans. Its distribution covers Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay and four Brazilian states: Rio Grande do Sul, Minas Gerais and Bahia. According to the Official List of Fauna Species Endangered by the State of Bahia, Brazil, this species is endangered. For this species, little information is known about activity, environment use, feeding ecology and standard displacement under natural conditions.

Master students

Felix Deiß

Translating mechanistic growth rate models via microclimatic simulations to high resolution spatial explicit disease dynamics of Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans in Germany.

Heckmann, J. H.

Evolution of adhesive pads in Cyrtodactylus.

Bachelor students

Jan Altenhofen

How does the Olympic village effect translate in a spatial sorting bias at the invasion front of Xenopus laevis promoting colonization success? A simulation study.

Sabine Harrer

Identifying priority areas for conserving Vietnams Ichthyofauna.

Maren Reichert

Developmental ecology of Discoglossus sp. tadpoles: does density affect growth rates?



Dr. Rafaela Cândido de França

The conservation status of snakes in Pernambuco Endemism Center, Brazil. In this project, we propose to evaluate the vulnerability to extinction of the snake species that occur in the Pernambuco Endemism Center, a much degraded area located in the portion of the Atlantic Forest north of the São Francisco River, Brazil. Our main questions are: 1. What are the species of vulnerable and endangered snakes in the Pernambuco Endemism Center? 2. What are the factors that most contribute to the vulnerability to extinction of these species? 3. What species of endangered snakes from the Pernambuco Endemism Center are effectively protected by the current system of Conservation Units? 4. What are the priority areas for conservation of endangered snake species in this region?

Dr. César Capinha

Niches of invasives. Current predictions of biological invasions or impacts of climate change on biodiversity largely rely on the assumption that species will establish or persist in areas with environmental conditions similar to those they were occupying before (i.e. niche conservatism). However, recent studies have consistently revealed examples of invasive species colonizing areas with conditions distinct from those of their native range (i.e. niche shifts). These findings currently undermine the reliability of predictions of species responses to global change and thus emphasize the need for research on the mechanisms that allow species to support new environmental conditions. The present project aims at testing distinct ecological and evolutionary factors potentially associated to niche shift/conservatism using large-scale invasions of terrestrial gastropods as a study model.

Dr. Mariam Gabelaia

Prof. Dr. Thimothy E. Higham

Animal locomotion is replete with examples of elaborate behavioral and morphological novelties that enhance performance. The adhesive apparatus of geckos is one such innovation, permitting locomotion in challenging micro-environments, such as on vertical or inverted smooth surfaces including smooth leaves, bamboo, and banana. This remarkable system generally involves a complex hierarchy of components: setae (microscopic beta-keratin hair-like structures), scansors (expanded digital scales), and modified skeletal elements, muscles and tendons of the foot and other parts of the limb. The mechanism of adhesive contact involves electrostatic interactions and van der Waals and capillary forces. The effective use of these morphological modifications is associated with altered locomotor kinematics. Despite our growing knowledge of gecko adhesion and its impact on locomotion, we know almost nothing about the intricate interactions between the hair-like structures on the ventral surface of the toes and the surfaces on which geckos move in nature. Unraveling the factors that actually facilitate or impede adhesion, especially with respect to plant surfaces that can vary dramatically in structure, chemistry, and polarizability, will be critical for inspiring the development of new adhesives and robots that mimic gecko adhesive properties, but will also be critical for understanding the evolution of plant-animal interactions. This research will be both transformative and broadly interesting to engineers, biomechanists, evolutionary biologists, and ecologists. The unparalleled collections and live animal resources at Museum Koenig and the numerous live plant specimens at the Botanic Garden at the University of Freiburg will be used to address several questions:
(1) Does the microtopography of the gecko adhesive system match that of the plant surfaces on which they are found?
(2) What impact do electrical charge and hydrophobicity of the plant surface have on gecko adhesion?
(3) What parameters of the plant surface dictate frictional adhesion performance in arboreal geckos?

Dr. Christine Kaiser

Dr. Marco Lazic

I am an evolutionary biologist mainly interested in the evolution of phenotypic diversity. As my main model system I use lizards of the Lacertidae family. Currently, I am focused on exploring how lacertid lizards evolved in cranial shape space. I use an integrated approach which combines cutting-edge tools of geometric morphometrics with those of evolutionary quantitative genetics and comparative phylogenetic methods to perform research that will bring us closer to answering some of the most important questions in biology: How do complex morphological traits change across evolutionary time scales? How important is the role of natural selection and inheritance in phenotypic diversification? What are the proximate (developmental) processes responsible for morphological diversification? Using this unified approach and investigating morphological variation and covariation patterns (e.g. morphological integration, modularity and allometry) in a broad phylogenetic context does not only provide us with the knowledge of how organismal form evolved but also allows us to decipher the developmental mechanisms responsible. By exploring these issues we may be closer to understanding how flexible developmental mechanisms are but also how natural selection, inheritance and development influence morphological evolution. In my previous work I investigated how environmental disturbance affects phenotypic variation of lizard head shape. In continuation to this work I now conduct research that will evaluate the effects of hybridization on developmental stability, canalization and allometry in lizard head shape. By combining methods of evolutionary quantitative genetics with those of statistical shape analysis I am also investigating if there is a heritable genetic component in head shape asymmetry and meristic trait asymmetry.

Dr. Evgeny Roitberg

Prof. Dr. Mirco K. Solé

Integrating ecophysiological data into species distribution models to assess the effect of climate change on amphibians.
This project deals with CTmax and CTmin data gathered from Neotropical amphibians. Most modeling approaches overestimate abiotical factores as environmental temperature and rainfall und underestimate biotical factors as species tolerance limits mostly because no data is readily available. We have gathered CTMax values for a large number of Neotropical amphibians and by integrating them into ecological niche modeling we expect to create more accurate previsions for the future.



Inna Rech

Geckos in zoos – conservation breeding or show-off keeping?


Ana M. Prieto-Ramirez

Understanding the impact of habitat fragmentation on Lacerta viridis across its range.

Lisa Schmitz

Seasonal variations in microhabitat use in Lacerta agilis?


Macedo, E. F.: Impacto potencial das mudanças climáticas sobre a distribuição do gênero Ophiodes Wagler, 1828 (Squamata: Anguidae) e implicações para a conservação das espécies. Master thesis – Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz

Schluckebier, R.: Spatial Habitat Use in Lacerta agilis Linnaeus, 1758. Master thesis


Nania, D.: Niche evolution and potential distribution of Lepidodactylus lugubris. Master thesis

Pilch, T. T.: The scales of the soles of monitor lizards’ feet (Squamata: Varanidae: Varanus spp.) and their potentially adhesive property. Bachelor thesis

Platzen, J.: A method to evaluate the climatic profile of a species by the example of Lacerta agilis LINNAEUS, 1758, in the Dellbrücker Heide. Master thesis


Behr, N.: Assessing the status of poorly known amphibians. Are they really local endemics or just a sampling artifact? Master thesis

Büschen, J.: Developmental ecology of Dendropsophus marmoratus. Bachelor thesis

Demand, T.: Phenotypic plasticity and thermal limits in amphibians. Bachelor thesis

Jacken, A.: Which species are in captive breeding projects in Zoos? Master thesis

Mahnke, A.: Ultrastructure of the adhesive apparatus in Phelsuma spp. Master thesis

Von Oy, R.: Using SDMs to assess the invasion potential of reptiles. Bachelor thesis

Rao, S.: Assessing the distribution and conservation status of Squatina squatina on the Canary Islands. Bachelor thesis


Clement, V. F.: Habitat Assessment and Behavior of Lacerta agilis LINNAEUS, 1758 – An Ecological Profile of a Widespread Species in the Center of its Distribution. Master thesis

Galunder, K.: Developmental ecology and larval staging in Polypedates otilophus (Boulenger, 1893) (Anura: Rhacophoridae). Bachelor thesis

Ihlow, F.: Herpetodiversity of Asia with a Special Focus on the Taxonomy, Ecology, and Distribution of Southeast Asian Chelonians. PhD thesis

Plagge, L.: Temperature dependent performance in larvae of Ambystoma mexicanum (Shaw, 1798) (Caudata: Ambystomatidae). Bachelor thesis

Reich, A.: Field study on thermoregulation of Lacerta agilis (Squamata: Lacertidae) in the NSG Wahner Heide. Master thesis

Sönnichsen, K.: Comparative feeding ecology and morphometrics of Lyciasalamandra species (Amphibia: Salamandridae) from Anatolia and Greece. Master thesis

Stupp, S.: Reexamination of Paul Müller’s collection of anurans from the Island of São Sebastião (Atlantic Rainforest of São Paulo, Brazil) and comparison with recent herpetofauna of this and comparable regions. Bachelor thesis


Behr, N.: Comparative larval development and behavioral thermoregulation in the Yellow-Bellied toad Bombina variegata (Linnaeus, 1758) (Anura: Bombinatoridae). Bachelor thesis

Engler, J. O.: Entwicklung und Anwendung eines kombinierten Methodenansatzes zur Analyse landschaftsspezifischer Effekte auf den Genfluss terrestrischer Organismen. PhD thesis

Drüke, Y.: Comparative analysis of the feeding ecology of the gecko Hemidactylus mabouia in its invasive and native range. Bachelor thesis

May, G.: Using spatial data in R: Modeling potential dispersal pathways of an invasive amphibian. Bachelor thesis

Weishaar, M.: Biogeography and environmental niche evolution in the genus Pelusios. Master thesis


Ferreira, R. B.: Impacts on threatened amphibians in a Brazillan Atlantic Forest mosaic. PhD thesis (scientific committee member, Department of Wildland Resources and Ecology Center, Utah State University, USA)

Fonseca, E. E.: Potencial invasor de serpentes exóticas no Brasil. Master thesis (Universidade Estadual de Santa Cruz)

Hörnes, D.: Herpetofauna of the Parque Nacional Cordillera Azul, Peru. Master thesis

Klein, B.: Entwicklungsbiologie ausgewählter Pfeilgiftfrösche der Gattung Ranitomeya. Master thesis

Krings, M.: Tadpole descriptions of different poison dart frogs of the genus Ranitomeya (Anura: Dendrobatidae) and their morphological comparison. Master thesis

Lemm, L.: Environmental niche evolution in the amphibian family Mantidactylidae. Master thesis

Linden, J. K.: Assessing biogeographical patterns in American freshwater turtles using a node-based analysis technique. Master thesis

Meyers, E. M.: Patterns in the distribution, population structure and habitat use of the Angel Shark (Squatina squatina). Master thesis

Prokant, F.: Phylogeny of the Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) based on Integrative Taxonomy. Master thesis

Vogt, S.: Invasionsbiologie von Xenopus laevis: Charakteriserung des Beutespektrums. Master thesis


Mödrath, C.: Habitatnutzung von Großsäugern in der ariden Otjimbingwe Region von Namibia. Master thesis

Reich, A.: Behavioral thermoregulation of tropical dart-poison frog larvae of the genus Epipedobates (Anura: Dendrobatidae) across multiple developmental stages. Bachelor thesis

Marques da Siva, R.: Compositcao, distrubuicao e historia natural da cumunidade de serpentes do litoral notre da Bahia, Brasil. Master thesis (Universidate Estadual de Santa Cruz)

Kurth, M.: Vergleichende Reproduktionsbiologie und Larvalentwicklung von Epipedobates anthonyi / E. tricolor. Bachelor thesis


Flecks, M.: A systematic revision of the African members of the genus Lygodactylus Gray, 1864. Diploma thesis

Günther, F.: Which importance has the Red River in Vietnam for the distribution of Goniurosaurus (Squamata: Eublepharidae) and Cyrtodactylus (Squamata: Gekkonidae)? A Survey based on SDMs and niche comparisons. Master thesis

Lierz, T.: Räumlich explizite Analysen der morphologischen Variation iberischer Lacertiden. Master thesis

Pertel, W.: Predicting the potential distribution of amphibians in the central corridor of the Atlantic rainforest. Master (Universidate Estadual de Santa Cruz)


Dubke, M.: Taxonomy and Zoogeographie of Ptychadena (Boulenger, 1817): Quantity of cryptic batrachodiversity? Bachelor thesis

Hörnes, D.: Current and past diversity patterns of North American chelonians: is there evidence of historical community reshuffling? Bachelor thesis

Nekum, S.: Kartierung und potentielle Verbreitung der Zauneidechse Lacerta agilis im Stadtgebiet von Köln. Diploma thesis (co-supervisor)


Hahn, G.: The potential distribution of Varanus niloticus and V. ocellatus. Diploma thesis (Trier University, co-supervisor)

Weinsheimer, F.: The herpetofauna of the Kimboza Forest with special focus on the Turquoise Dwarf Gecko (Lygodactylus williamsi). Diploma thesis (co-supervisor)

Weinmann, T.: Comparisons of climate niches in Neotropical poison frogs (Dendrobates). Diploma thesis (Trier University, co-supervisor)



Zoologisches Forschungsmuseum Alexander Koenig

Adenauerallee 160

53113 Bonn


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