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Integrative Taxonomy - A Multi-Source Approach to Study Biodiversity

Subject Group Systematics, Biogeography & Diversity

Tue | September 10th, 2024
09.00 am – 1.00 pm

University of Hohenheim
BIO building
Lecture hall HS B


Lets talk about Integrative Taxonomy!

This symposium aims to present state-of-the-art research from established scientists applying methods and principles of integrative taxonomy. Keynote talks are intended to provide impetus, stimulate discussion, and are supplemented by short presentations by early career scientists.

Our aim is to stimulate the use of diverse methods and approaches to better understand biodiversity.

Keynote speaker

Why is there no service to support taxonomy?

Most research in organismal biology focusses on a method or a metric – such as predator-prey dynamics, fecundity, oxygen metabolism, or many other aspects – that can be, at least in theory, applied to almost any species. Taxonomy is highly unusual, in that it takes the opposite approach, and puts the species at the centre.

Integrative taxonomy, in fact, aims to use as many different methods as possible, to curate a combined dataset of many different lines of evidence, that form a consensus about the thorny problem of species delimitation. Such lines of evidence include DNA barcodes or even whole genomes, morphological descriptions, or even new technology such as hyperspectral imaging, and so on. For the taxonomic practitioner, this is an unspoken and Sisyphean burden; we are continually pushing our methodological boulders up the mountain, only to be rolled back down again by the next interesting method. This represents a misalignment between taxonomic practice and modern methods-driven approaches. Indeed, much of modern scientific research involves the use of commercial services, for example for DNA sequencing, stable isotope analyses, and many other analytical processes.

Within the Senckenberg Ocean Species Alliance, we are currently developing a new service unit designed to support morphological descriptions and the preparation of taxonomic publications. In the face of the modern extinction crisis, we must accelerate species descriptions.

The Importance of Integrative Taxonomy in the DNA Barcoding Era

Our interaction with and interpretation of the living world is based on a hierarchical classification of the living objects we encounter. The species is one of the most fundamental units in the classification that taxonomy seeks to circumscribe and name.

Classical DNA barcoding of metazoans (i.e., analysis of the COI nucleotide sequence) has helped to greatly increase the speed and accuracy of species delimitation and identification. However, DNA barcoding alone can be misleading and should always be interpreted in conjunction with nuclear-encoded information.

Using wasps as an example, I will illustrate why it is important to consider nuclear-encoded data and which nuclear markers or nuclear-encoded characters are promising complements to classical DNA barcode data, especially because they can be applied to a wide range of species and because their acquisition can be automated.

Integrative taxonomy elucidates diversity and evolution of ant social parasites

The goal of integrative taxonomy is the correct delineation of species boundaries to discover life’s biodiversity and infer its evolutionary history. Integrative taxonomy research utilizes multiple complementary methodological approaches including results from behavioral, ecological, genomic, morphological, phylogenetic, and population genetic studies. Our lab group employs an integrative approach to studying the diversity and evolution of social parasitic ants.

Ant social parasites rely on the social organization of their hosts throughout their life cycle. Despite their highly specialized behaviors, ant social parasites are speciose with more than 400 known species distributed across 42 genera, and they are phylogenetically diverse with at least 91 convergent origins. Hence, ant social parasites represent a set of natural experiments that is ideally suited to studying the ecological, behavioral, and genetic mechanisms, by which changes in life history lead to reproductive isolation generating biodiversity.

In this presentation, I will introduce some recently discovered ant social parasite species, examine their intricate life histories, and discuss the diverse speciation mechanisms by which they originated. Our studies show that nearly identical social parasitic life history syndromes can evolve in parallel via independent evolutionary pathways in distantly related species, providing novel empirical insights for speciation and biodiversity research as well as for understanding the mechanisms underlying convergent life history evolution.

Short presentations by early career scientists
  • Present and discuss your work with established and other early career scientists in a friendly atmospher
Networking and exchange
  • We would like to bring you together and encourage you to exchange ideas and network with like-minded conference participants.

Registration fee

8 €

Make sure to include our satellite symposium during your registration!

Target Audience
Everyone interested in Integrative Taxonomy is welcome to join us.

We particularly encourage young researchers, e.g. PhD or MSc students, to present their work and network with the participants.

Organisational matters
Lunch individually
10.30 am – 11.00 am Coffee break

Following the registration, please send your abstract per email directly to the chairs of the symposium!

We look forward to a diverse symposium on the topic of integrative taxonomy and stimulating discussions with you!


Manuela Sann
University of Hohenheim, Institute for Biology

Jörn von Döhren
University of Bonn, BIOB Abt. II - Biodiversität der Tiere

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