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Muséum d'histoire naturelle
Route de Malagnou 1
Chargé de recherche au département depuis décembre 2003. S'intéresse particulièrement aux reconstructions moléculaires des relations intragénériques net intergénériques des différentes familles de Squamata, ainsi qu'à la taxonomie et la zoogéographie des amphibiens anoures et des reptiles afro-arabiques et asiatiques fondées sur la morphologie et la génétique.
In my research I apply among others the knowledge won from newly discovered biodiversity to interpret the spacial and temporal history of different regional and continental biomes to understand the evolutionary processes which underlie the development and functionality of various species and their essential similarities or differences between different regions and continents. Any thus gained new data and knowledge are then used to address further evolutionary questions and this research is then used to optimize any applied conservation efforts.
As a herpetologist who is specifically specialized in two very different organism groups (amphibians and reptiles) I can take full advantage of the highly divergent ecological niches and requirements of those groups and thus use both of them as semi-dependent model groups with which I will be answer a large array of evolutionary questions.
My current and future research concentrates on the African continent and the Arabian Peninsula where several areas of global importance exist, and which e.g. in Africa comprise the largest area of afro-alpine habitats and some of the largest areas of tropical forest on the continent. Additionally to these famous rainforest refugia, recent and ongoing studies from me and my colleagues have shown very similar refugia patterns in the desert and savannah biomes of eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula which are of the highest importance for the evolution of the arid-adapted species in those regions. Even more, when it comes to pan-continent dispersal it now seems very likely that most of the larger faunal immigration waves from e.g. Asia to Africa are mostly based on these comparatively dry-adapted species, which nonetheless are often closely phylogenetically related to fully-adapted rainforest lineages in the African forest belt.
A special area of my interest is the Cameroon Mountain Chain in western Cameroon (this mountain chain reaches all the way from Mt. Cameroon in the south to the Tchabal Mbabo Mountains in the north-western part of the country). This region has only recently been shown to harbor one of the highest single most species rich fauna for one locality in all of Africa for both amphibians and reptiles (Mt. Nlonako: >100 species of amphibians and >90 species of reptiles). Even more species are currently being described from there and my studies indicate that this exceptionally high biodiversity is due to the “island structure” of the Cameroon Mountain Chain, where because of the recent climatic changes in this delimited region each peak seems to have been isolated for different time scales from its surroundings. This offers a unique opportunity to study short-scale evolution and how it can create discrete geographical entities within defined climatic montane boundaries by preventing gene flow between individuals even on comparatively close habitats. This rather recent radiation is further be embedded in a geologically dynamic history of the mountain chain which can also harbor the basis for high levels of endemism, evolving in isolation over millions of years.
A second center of interest continues to be West Africa, which has now proven to not only harbor a newly discovered endemic family of frogs (one of only 2 known in the whole of Africa) but ongoing follow-up studies also showed that very similar patterns of evolution seem to be present in several other amphibian groups in West Africa as well. Other than highlighting the importance of the Upper Guinean forests as an outstanding, but highly endangered biodiversity hotspot, the availability of the study material, limited adaptability and dispersion possibilities of the organisms studied (amphibians are thus excellent climatic indicators), will help us to date the climatic changes of the past in West Africa to an hereto unknown precision.