Background and context
Campylopus is one of the largest moss genera, with about 150 species worldwide. The genus occurs in Western Europe, but has its hotspot of diversity in Central and tropical South America (Neotropics). Identification of Campylopus plants based on morphological characters is complicated and the existing identification keys are difficult to use. Several DNA regions have been tested for their utility to distinguish Campylopus species (DNA barcoding), but so far only the nuclear ribosomal ITS region provides sufficient (and, in fact, almost too much) variability. For a number of molecular clades we have identified (combinations of) putative key morphological characters for identification. These new ‘species hypotheses’ should be tested by an iterative approach: predicting the identity of additional (not yet sequenced) specimens based on the putative key characters, followed by checking the inferred identity by molecular analysis, and revising the morpho-molecular species circumscriptions when necessary. In addition, further analyses are necessary to understand the evolution of the ITS region and morphological characters.
Objectives and goals
To find new species delimitations and understand evolutionary patterns in Neotropical mosses based on analysis of morphological characters and DNA sequences.
Methods, tasks & approach
DNA sequencing of non-coding DNA markers (ITS), phylogenetic analysis with different methods, molecular evolution analysis of the ITS region, microscopic analysis and character scoring of morphological characters, ancestral state reconstruction, comparing genetic diversity with morphological character variation in an iterative taxonomy approach.
BSc degree in biology (in case of a bachelor’s project completion of the 1st and 2nd year of the biology programme).