Integrating molecular tools into freshwater ecology: developments and opportunities

Authors

  • Steffen U. Pauls,

    Corresponding author
    1. Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Frankfurt am Main, Germany
    2. Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
    • Correspondence: Steffen Pauls, Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Senckenberganlage 25, 60325 Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

      E-mail: steffen.pauls@senckenberg.de

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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • Maria Alp,

    1. Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Berlin, Germany
    2. UMR5174 EDB (Laboratoire Evolution & Diversite Biologique), Ecole Nationale de Formation Agronomique (ENFA), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Universite Paul Sabatier, France
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    • [Correction added on 14 May 2014, after first online publication: complete address of affiliation 4 is now provided]
  • Miklós Bálint,

    1. Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (BiK-F), Frankfurt am Main, Germany
    2. Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung, Frankfurt am Main, Germany
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  • Paola Bernabò,

    1. Section of Invertebrate Zoology and Hydrobiology, Museo delle Scienze, Trento, Italy
    2. Centre for Integrative Biology, University of Trento, Trento, Italy
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  • Fedor Čiampor Jr,

    1. Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia
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  • Zuzana Čiamporová-Zaťovičová,

    1. Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia
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  • Debra S. Finn,

    1. School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, U.K
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Zoology, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR, U.S.A
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  • Jan Kohout,

    1. Institute of Zoology, Slovak Academy of Sciences, Bratislava, Slovakia
    2. Faculty of Fisheries and Protection of Waters, University of South Bohemia in České Budějovice, Vodňany, Czech Republic
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  • Florian Leese,

    1. Department of Animal Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity, Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany
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  • Valeria Lencioni,

    1. Section of Invertebrate Zoology and Hydrobiology, Museo delle Scienze, Trento, Italy
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  • Ivan Paz-Vinas,

    1. UMR5174 EDB (Laboratoire Evolution & Diversite Biologique), Ecole Nationale de Formation Agronomique (ENFA), Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Universite Paul Sabatier, France
    2. Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Station d'Ecologie Expérimentale du CNRS à Moulis, USR2936, Moulis, France
    3. Université de Toulouse, UPS, UMR5174 (EDB), Toulouse Cedex 4, France
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  • Michael T. Monaghan

    1. Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB), Berlin, Germany
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    • These authors contributed equally to this work.

Summary

  1. Molecular genetic techniques have been used in freshwater biology for more than 30 years. Early work focussed on studies of population structure, systematics and taxonomy. More recently, the range of studies has broadened to include ecology and adaptation. Advances in analytical methods and in technology (e.g. next-generation sequencing) and decreasing costs of data production ensure that the field will continue to develop and broaden in scope.
  2. At least three factors make the application of molecular techniques to freshwater biology exciting. First, the highly variable nature of many aquatic habitats makes them excellent models for the study of environmental change on ecological and evolutionary time scales. Second, the mature state of the field of freshwater biology provides an extensive foundation of ecological knowledge of freshwater organisms and their distinct adaptations. Third, the methodological advances allow researchers to focus more on merging molecular and ecological research and less on designing studies around technical limitations.
  3. We identified eight research areas in freshwater biology in which the integration of molecular and ecological approaches provides exceptional opportunities. The list is not exhaustive, but considers a broad range of topics and spans the continuum from basic to applied research. The areas identified use a combination of natural, experimental and in silico approaches.
  4. With advancing molecular techniques, freshwater biology is in an unusually strong position to link the genetic basis and ecological importance of adaptations across a wide range of taxa, ecosystems and spatiotemporal scales. Our aim was to identify opportunities for the integration of molecular and ecological approaches, to motivate greater collaboration and crossover, and to promote exploitation of the synergies of bridging ecological and evolutionary freshwater research.

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