Evolution and Biogeography of Meiofauna
Biological evolution is the fundamental process in nature. By means of inheritance and modification of characters combined with an irreversible split of lineages, evolution created and still creates the stunning biodiversity on our planet. Linked with this, there is a fascinating diversity of structures, functions and interactions.
The division Evolution and Biogeography of Meiofauna is focused on historical evolutionary research, i.e. evolutionary patterns of different groups of the meiofauna (benthic animals with body sizes of mostly less than 1 mm) at different time scales are explored. This includes e.g. the genetic-geographic population structure of species. Phylogenetic relationships of whole species groups (taxa), evolutionary modifications of organ systems and the connected adaptation effects are studied, too. The spatial and ecological distribution of species can either be a result or even the source of evolutionary processes. For instance, a sufficiently long geographic separation of populations may lead to new and reproductively isolated species. Therefore, biogeography and historical evolutionary research are inextricably linked with each other. Phylogeography considers relationships between distribution and evolution in rather young time segments, i.e. intraspecific, microevolutionary processes and patterns.
The biology of meiofauna organisms differs to some extend considerably from that of macrobenthic animals. Amongst other effects, this has an influence on their distribution and dispersal ability and hence also on the evolution of these groups. Compared to their “big relatives”, many taxa of the meiofauna are only sparsely explored regarding their morphology, systematics, population structure, biogeography, and biology. This division is involved in finding answers to such questions while currently the focus is on the Gastrotricha as a “model group”.