Biodiversity and Molecular Evolution

Prof. Ing. Ladislav Bocák, Ph.D.
Group leader
E-mail ladislav.bocak@upol.cz

The research group focuses on the reconstruction of the evolutionary history, the biodiversity research including DNA-based species delimitation analyses, the zoogeography, higher classification, and the evolution of neoteny and mimicry. Principal model organisms are various elateroid beetles (Coleoptera: Polyphaga, Elateroidea) and most often the click beetles, fireflies and related families and net-winged beetles, i.e., the families Elateridae, Lampyridae, Phengodidae, Rhagophthalmidae, and Lycidae. We use mainly molecular data, both Sanger sequencing and NextGen transcriptomic, RAD, and whole genome data. We use DNA-based topologies to test phylogenetic relationships inferred by morphological analyses, to identify parallel evolution of similarly the forms with similarly modified ontogeny, and to assess the impact of life history modifications on the macroecology of studied groups. We use the results for modifications of the  formal Linnean classification at various levels from the family- to species-rank and to study the evolution of the groups of interest.
The evolutionary studies deal with mimetic communities, their species structure, the evolution of imperfect mimics and detailed evaluation of mimetic signal and its perception by various predators. Studies on neoteny focus on the molecular mechanisms controlling the transition from the last larva to male and female adult. Besides we are interested in macroevolutionary consequences of neoteny and the impact of the shift to neotenic development on the evolution of some genes.
The results of our studies include formal classification of new organisms and lineages, the identification of the centers of biodiversity and the estimation of the effect of climatic fluctuation on individual groups of organisms.