Head of department:
Macholán Miloš, prof. RNDr., CSc.
Research activities of the laboratory are focused on genetic and phenotypic variation and evolution of mammals. We pay attention both to wild and model species. In the former case we focus on description of the genetic and morphological variation and systematic relationships among small mammals of the Palearctic and Afrotropical zoogeographic realms, whereas in the latter case we capitalize on the house mouse (Mus musculus) as an evolutionary model, especially on two subspecies, M. m. musculus and M. m. domesticus, forming a narrow hybrid zone in Europe. Our aim is to elucidate mechanisms involved in formation of prezygotic and postzygotic reproductive barriers (including so called “speciation genes”) and to detect those parts of the genome breaking these barriers (so called “antispeciation genes”). For this purpose we study both ecological, behavioural, and physiological differences between the subspecies (sexual preferences, aggression, coping with stressful conditions, exploration and dispersal, production and profiles of androgen-binding proteins, major urinary proteins, steroid hormones), and processes shaping the hybrid zone patterns. The zone dynamics is studied across a vast area between the Baltic Sea coast and the Alps in order to distinguish random influences (colonization history, human activities, local geographic barriers, genetic drift) and deterministic factors (natural selection). For this purpose we use a large number of molecular markers (SNP, allozymes, microsatellites, sequences) and specific analyses (gene expression, gene copy number variation). Given the way the zone has arisen we try to supplement these data with phylogeographic mapping of the western Palearctic to reveal involvement of individual haplogroups in its origin.