Microbial eukaryotes (protists) play major functional roles in aquatic ecosystems including biogeochemical cycling of elements, as well as occupying various places in the food web. Despite their importance for ecosystem functioning, the factors that drive speciation in protists are not known. The project will aim to identify factors that drive species differentiation in protists by elucidating the genetic basis of speciation. We focus on three model species of free-living protists that differ in their lifestyle, ecology, and mode of nutrition. We will first infer their population structure to characterize genetically well differentiated, yet evolutionary young incipient species lineages. Then, we will detect genomic islands of differentiation to characterize candidate genes responsible for speciation. Finally, we will test for phenotypic differences in quantitative traits related to the functions of candidate speciation genes. Application of modern genomic tools will allow us to characterize, for the first time, the genetic basis of speciation in protist organisms.

We are looking for a motivated student, ideally trained in bioinformatics or evolutionary biology.

Five relevant publications of the research group: 

Stanojković, A., Skoupý, S., Škaloud, P. & Dvořák, P. (2022): High genomic differentiation and limited gene flow indicate recent cryptic speciation within the genus Laspinema (cyanobacteria)
Frontiers in Microbiology 13: 977454.

Čertnerová, D., Čertner, M. & Škaloud, P. (2022): Alternating nuclear DNA content in chrysophytes provides evidence of their isomorphic haplo-diploid life cycle. Algal Research 64: 102707.

Jadrná, I., Siver, P.A. & Škaloud, P. (2021): Morphological evolution of silica scales in the freshwater genus Synura (Stramenopiles). Journal of Phycology 57: 355-369.

Škaloud, P., Škaloudová, M., Jadrná, I., Bestová, H., Pusztai, M., Kapustin, D. & Siver, P.A. (2020): Comparing morphological and molecular estimates of species diversity in the freshwater genus Synura (Stramenopiles): a model for understanding diversity of eukaryotic microorganisms.
Journal of Phycology 56: 574-591.

Škaloud, P., Škaloudová, M., Doskočilová, P., Kim, J.I., Shin, W. & Dvořák, P. (2019): Speciation in protists: Spatial and ecological divergence processes cause rapid species diversification in a freshwater chrysophyte. Molecular Ecology 28: 1084-1095.

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