Bernd Egger

PostDoc in the group of Walter Salzburger.

Current research


The role of ecology and phenotypic plasticity in adaptive divergence in East African cichlids

Replicate adaptive radiations in island-like settings - such as the Caribbean anoles lizards, Hawaiian spiders, stickleback fish in temperate waters, and cichlid fishes in the Great Lakes of East Africa - serve as important model systems to identify the factors that promote or constrain speciation. In this project, we examine adaptive divergence in East African cichlids, making use of replicate lake-stream population pairs in three haplochromine cichlid species in the area of Lake Tanganyika. This allows us to test the relative contribution of adaptive phenotypic plasticity to diversification and to address the questions of how many loci are involved in adaptation along a lake-stream environmental gradient and how these are distributed across the genome. Further, we study two recent ‘man-made’ assemblages of a haplochromine cichlid speciesin small lakes in the South and in the North of Lake Tanganyika to test the hypothesis that the increased ecological opportunity provided by lakes facilitates diversification.

The function of egg-spots in haplochromine cichlids

The majority of East African cichlid species are members of a single tribe, the Haplochromini, comprising most riverine East African cichlid species and the species flocks of Lakes Malawi and Victoria. An important feature shared by haplochromines is their special breeding behaviour, in the form of maternal mouthbrooding with females incubating the eggs in their buccal cavities. Mouthbrooding evolved several times during cichlid evolution, but only haplochromines show a characteristic polygynous or polygynandrous maternal mouthbrooding system with males carrying conspicuous egg-spots on the anal fin. Previous work on the function of egg-spots has primarily focused on a putative role of egg-spots in female choice. We further examine the function of this cichlid specific ornament and results from experiments involving two haplochromine species suggest that egg-spots are an important signal in intrasexual communication.



· Anya Theis, PostDoc

· Fabrizia Ronco, PhD student

· Jelena Rajkov, PhD student

· Gaëlle Pauquet, Msc student

· Thomas Näf, MSc student

Former team members

· Simon Egger, MSc

· Tania Bosia, MSc

· Yuri Kläfiger, MSc


Curriculum Vitae

Address: Zoologisches Institut, Universität Basel, Vesalgasse 1, CH-4051 Basel

Phone: 0041 786799736



Nationality: Austrian

Date of birth: 22.08.1974


2004 - 2007

PhD thesis: ‘The role of sexual selection and habitat instabilities in the evolution of intraspecific colour variation in the cichlid genus Tropheus from Lake Tanganyika’ at the Department of Zoology, University of Graz (Supervisor: Dr. Kristina M. Sefc). Graduation to ‘Doktor der Naturwissenschaften’ (PhD in natural science).

1993 - 2002

Studies in Biology at the University of Innsbruck, Institute of Zoology Graduation to ‘Magister der Naturwissenschaften’ (Masters degree).

Employment history


Post-doc in the group of Walter Salzburger, University of Basel, Switzerland.

2009 - 2011

Postdoctoral fellow with Walter Salzburger, University of Basel, Switzerland (Schrödinger fellowship, the Austrian Science Fund).

2008 - 2009

Research officer (Post-Doc position) for Prof. George Turner at the Molecular Ecology and Fisheries Genetics Laboratory, School of Biological Sciences, University of Wales, Bangor, UK.


Research associate (Post-Doc position) at the Department of Zoology, University of Graz.

2004 - 2007

Research associate (PhD position) at the Department of Zoology, University of Graz.

2002 - 2003

Civil service at the Institute for Blood Transfusion, Clinic Innsbruck, DNA laboratory.