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Institut für Evolutionäre Anthropologie (IEA) Evolutionary Genetics Group

Catherine Cornaz

Research Interests

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+41 44 635 54 18 +41 44 635 68 04 catherine.cornaz*

I have a keen interest in the marine environment and particularly Cetaceans, a complex group still far from completely understood on many levels. I am particularly interested in environmental and evolutionary processes that lead to population segregation and speciation.

The Australian coast is inhabited by common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) and the existence of a third species has been named (Tursiops australis). Tursiops spp. belong to the family Delphinidae, which underwent a rapid radiation. To this date there is still much debate about unresolved taxonomies within the family.

My Msc thesis aims at the reconstruction of the phylogeographic history of the genus Tursiops in Australian waters by means of mitogenomics. The mitochondrial genome is a powerful tool to examine the speed and mode of molecular evolution, especially with closely related species due to its high mutation rate. Mitogenomics allow for phylogenetic reconstruction of rapidly evolving taxa, including divergence time estimates. It therefore provides valuable insight into cetacean phylogeny at the subfamily, genus and population levels. Environmental influences and geological processes such as oscillations in global temperature during the Pleistocene are expected to be reflected in the mitogenomic analysis.

These findings will widen our understanding of the processes that cause diversity and lead to speciation. Furthermore, it will generate insight into the evolution, dispersal patterns and population structure of Tursiops spp. in Australia. Such knowledge is critical for their successful management.

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Catherine Cornaz

Catherine Cornaz