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URPP Evolution in Action: From Genomes to Ecosystems

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The Roots of the Mapuche

The ancestors of the Mapuche people settled in South America more than 5,000 years ago. For a long time, they lived in relative isolation and in defiance of the Incas and Spanish. A notable study aids our understanding of their genetic history, and that of South America.

UZH News, May 2024


AI increases Precision in Plant Observation

Artificial intelligence (AI) can help plant scientists collect and analyze unprecedented volumes of data, which would not be possible using conventional methods. Researchers at the University of Zurich (UZH) have now used big data, machine learning and field observations in the university’s experimental garden to show how plants respond to changes in the environment.

UZH Press Release, September 2023


Tracing Chile’s Indigenous Roots Through Genetics and Linguistics

How do today’s indigenous communities of South America trace back to the history of human migration and contact in the continent? An international team has worked to reconstruct the legacy of Chile’s largest indigenous community, the Mapuche, in a quest to strengthen their representation in the history of the continent. It appears the Mapuche long lived in relative isolation but do bear some influences from other populations of the Central Andes and the far south of Chile.

UZH Press Release, June 2023


Genes and Languages

Does the history of our languages match the history of our genes? A team of scientists at the University of Zurich and the Max-Planck-Institute have revealed a large number of matches – but also widespread mismatches in around 20 percent of cases, including in Malta, Hungary and Namibia.

UZH Press Release, 22 Nov 2022


Threatened Aldabra Giant Tortoise Genome Decoded

They can live for more than 100 years and weigh up to 250 kilograms – Aldabra giant tortoises. Researchers at the University of Zurich have now decoded the genome of Aldabrachelys gigantea, one of only two remaining giant tortoise species worldwide. The findings will help to ensure the long-term survival of the threatened species.

UZH Press Release, 12 Oct 2022


Die Eingeweide von ägyptischen Mumien sind eine noch unerschlossene Quelle an DNA-Informationen – bis jetzt

Im alten Ägypten wurden die Organe der Toten separat in speziellen Gefässen einbalsamiert. Wissenschafter haben erstmals genetisches Material daraus gewonnen. Sie hoffen so zum Beispiel herauszufinden, welche Krankheitserreger die Menschen in sich trugen.

NZZ, 18.08.2022


Frogs Use Brains or Camouflage to Evade Predators

How do frogs protect themselves from predators? Some species rely on cognitive predator evasion, using their large brains and strong hind legs. For species exposed to high predation pressure, however, this strategy takes too much energy, and effective camouflage to avoid being detected in the first place may be preferable. Evolutionary biologists at the University of Zurich now reveal how these different survival strategies evolved in frogs.

UZH News, 18 Aug 2022


Die Sommer werden heisser. Kommen Tiere, Pflanzen und Mikroorganismen damit klar?

Neue Untersuchungen deuten darauf hin, dass ihnen dies weniger gut gelingt als erhofft.

NZZ am Sonntag, 13.08.2022


Global Spread of Powdery Mildew through Migration and Trade

The worldwide distribution of one of the most important cereal pathogens is the result of human activity. Researchers at the University of Zurich have traced the history and spread of wheat powdery mildew along wheat trade routes and found that mixing of genetic ancestries of related powdery mildew species played a central role in the evolution and adaptation of the pathogen.

UZH Press Release, 3 August 2022


Wonderful World of Wheat

Green genetic engineering will help secure our food supply, believes plant biologist Beat Keller. One possible approach involves genetically modifying wheat to make it more resistant to powdery mildew.

UZH News, 12 Juli 2022


In the Beginning Was the Popcorn

Genetically modified crops could contribute to making agriculture more sustainable and productive, says Ueli Grossniklaus. This new green genetic engineering has so far met with skepticism – but the challenges of climate change and the global grain crisis may change people’s views.

UZH News, 22 June 2022


Wundersaft Sperma: Ein Teelöffel Erbinformation (ab 29:30)

Sperma - der Stoff, aus dem Leben entsteht. Das Ejakulat, ein Protein-Shake. Im Wundersaft tummeln sich bis zu 600 Millionen Samenzellen. Gut 1,5 Gigabyte an Erbinformation enthalten Spermien.

3sat, Wissenschaftsdoku, 13.1.2022



Delta, Omikron & Co: Wie werden neue Virus-Varianten entdeckt?

Das Coronavirus hat unser Leben noch immer fest im Griff. Doch was ist eine Virus-Variante? Wie wird eine Veränderung im Virus entdeckt?

SRF Kinder News, 11.12.2021


Do languages and genes share cultural evolutionary history?

Languages and genes tell stories about the past but statistical analysis reveals that these are not always the same.

Science Advances, 6 Oct 2021


Die Grammatik steckt in unseren Genen

Wie ist Sprache entstanden? Und wie hat sie sich entwickelt? Sprachwissenschaftler blicken immer weiter zurück in die Vergangenheit der Menschheit – dank neuer Methoden.

SRF, 24.08.2021


What If Our History Was Written In Our Grammar?

Humans have been always on the move, creating a complex history of languages and cultural traditions dispersed over the globe. An international team under UZH’s lead has now traced families of related languages over more than 10,000 years by combining data from genetics, linguistics and musicology using novel digital methods. Their findings: grammar reflects best the common prehistory of a population and therefore mirrors genetics more than any other cultural feature.

UZH Press Release, 19.8.2021


Courting Females

In the animal kingdom, it’s the ladies who get to pick their partners. So if males want to mate, they have to woo females and outshine their rivals. UZH biologist Stefan Lüpold examines what gives male animals the edge when it comes to sexual selection.

UZH Magazin, 2/2021


Schleicher's Dream

Originating in Africa, homo sapiens spread across the globe, and with it the human language. A project is now underway to trace the genealogy of the world's languages with the help of highly advanced methods borrowed from big data, genetics and geostatistics.

UZH Magazin, 2/2021


Evolution passiert hier, jetzt und schnell

Evolution ist kein langsamer Prozess, sondern geschieht tagtäglich. Das zeigt die Ausstellung «evolution happens!» im Zoologischen Museum unter anderem am Beispiel der Antibiotikaresistenz.

SRF, 16.06.2021


Evolution geschieht hier und jetzt / Evolution Happens, Here and Now

Eine neue Sonderausstellung im Zoologischen Museum der Universität Zürich macht mit Beispielen aus Medizin, Landwirtschaft und Naturschutz die Evolution und ihre Konsequenzen in unserem Alltag sicht- und greifbar. Die Ausstellungsinhalte wurden in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Universitären Forschungsschwerpunkt (UFSP) «Evolution in Aktion: Vom Genom zum Ökosystem» erarbeitet.

A new special exhibition at the Zoological Museum of the University of Zurich shines the spotlight on evolution and its consequences in our everyday lives. The exhibition, which uses examples from medicine, agriculture and nature conservation, was developed in collaboration with the University Research Priority Program (URPP) Evolution in Action: From Genomes to Ecosystems.

UZH Medienmitteilung / Press Release, 14.6.2021


Die Mutationsdetektive

Wissenschafter an der Universität Irchel können erkennen, wo sich die Covid-19-Varianten aus England und Südafrika bei uns verbreiten.

NZZ, 3.3.2021


Unser Umfeld ist entscheidend

Ernährung, Stress, soziales Engagement: All das beeinflusst nicht nur uns, sondern im Zweifel auch unsere Kinder und Enkel, sagt Isabelle Mansuy.

taz, 25.1.2021




Why It Pays to Play Around

Play is so important that nature invented it long before it invented us. By Andreas Wagner.

Nautilus, December 16, 2020


Natural Selection also Increases the Adaptability of Organism

Natural selection causes organisms to adapt continuously. Researchers at the University of Zurich now show for the first time that proteins in bacteria develop a new property more rapidly when the selection pressure is high. Natural selection can thus also increase the evolutionary capacity itself.

UZH Press Release, 3 December 2020


"Health is inherited"

According to Isabelle Mansuy’s research, the epigenome – which can switch our genes on and off – can be modified, positively or negatively, by our lifestyle choices. At least some of these modifications are passed down through the generations.

UZH News, 30 Nov 2020


Wheat Diversity Due to Cross-Hybridization with Wild Grasses

Bread wheat can grow in highly diverse regional environments. An important reason for its great genetic variety is the cross-hybridization with many chromosome fragments from wild grasses. This is shown by the genome sequences of 10 wheat varieties from four continents, which an international consortium including researchers from the University of Zurich has now decoded.

UZH Press Release, 25 November 2020


Covid-19 ist ein Weckruf: Wir sind nicht allein auf diesem Planeten

Was richten Pandemien mit einer Gesellschaft an? Verena Schünemann ist Paläogenetikerin und erforscht alte Krankheiten von Menschen, Tieren und Pflanzen, um daraus für die Gegenwart und die Zukunft zu lernen.

Podcast 'Im Gespräch', Republik, 13.11.2020


Host Genetic Factors Shape Composition of Virus Communities

Plants can be infected by multiple viruses at once. However, the composition of the pathogen community varies, even if individuals belong to the same species and the same population. Ecologists at the University of Zurich have now shown that these differences are primarily due to genetic variation among the hosts. The loss of genetic diversity could thus render species more vulnerable to infections and extinction.

UZH Press Release, 5 November 2020


New Blooms from the Uri Alps

Evolutionary biologist Kentaro Shimizu gathers flowers from a Swiss alpine meadow and cultivates Japanese wheat in a garden on UZH’s Irchel Campus. He wants to find out how plants are adapting to climate change.

UZH News, 22 Oct 2020


Krankheiten als Erbe der Evolution

Warum wird der Mensch krank? Der Homo sapiens ist aus Sicht der Evolutionsbiologie eine Mängelkonstruktion - seit jeher anfällig für Leiden aller Art. Krankheit ist Erbe unserer Evolution.

3sat, scobel, 22.10.2020


Languages and Genes Shed Light on pre-Incan Cultural Development in Central Andes

A recent study combines newly available analyses and methods from linguistics and genetics to tackle a long-standing topic in archaeological research, confirming the demographic and cultural elements of a north-south divide in the Central Andes.

Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Press Release, October 21, 2020


Diese Pflanze blüht nur auf dem Urnerboden

Besondere Entdeckung im Hochtal - Die Evolution brauche Millionen Jahre, glauben wir. Eine Alpenblume belegt, dass sich neue Arten auch innert 150 Jahren entwickeln können.

Tagesanzeiger, 17.10.2020


Evolution in Action: New Plant Species at Urnerboden

A new plant species named "Cardamine insueta" appeared in the region of Urnerboden in the Swiss alps, after the land has changed from forest to grassland over the last 150 years. The inheritance of two key traits from its parent plants enabled the newly emerged species to grow in a distinct environmental niche, as researches from the University of Zurich now show.

UZH Press Release, 6 October 2020


Wie Tiere zu Städtern werden

Füchse in Zürich haben plötzlich Pfoten und Schädel wie Haustiere. Fische jagen Tauben. Insekten fliegen nicht mehr ins Licht. In kürzester Zeit passen sich Tiere und Pflanzen der Stadt an. Darwin wäre überrascht gewesen, wie schnell das geht. «Einstein» über erstaunlich flexible Stadtbewohner.

TV: SRF 1, Einstein, 1. Oktober 2020


The fly that conquered the world

Whether hot or cold, wet or dry: the fruit fly is comfortable just about everywhere. A European research network has been investigating how evolution helps it to adapt to new environments.

Horizons, 03/09/2020


Wie viel Migration steckt in dir?

Woher komme ich? Welche Spuren meiner Vorfahren trage ich in mir? Mag ich gerne Kaiserschmarrn, weil das die Leibspeise meiner österreichischen Urgrossmutter war? Mein Temperament, dank einem Schuss italienischer DNA vom Grossvater? Verrät der DNA Test wirklich Schlaues über uns?

Radio SRF 1, 26. August 2020


Syphilis May Have Spread through Europe before Columbus

Columbus brought syphilis to Europe – or did he? A recent study conducted at the University of Zurich now indicates that Europeans could already have been infected with this sexually transmitted disease before the 15th century. In addition, researchers have discovered a hitherto unknown pathogen causing a related disease. The predecessor of syphilis and its related diseases could be over 2,500 years old.

UZH Press Release, 13 August 2020


Aus Pandemien der Vergangenheit lernen: Genetik alter Krankheitserreger

Podcast von Verena Schünemann im Rahmen der Ringvorlesung der Kommission UZH Interdisziplinär "Covid-19: Universitäre Verantwortung in Zeiten globaler Verwerfungen" vom 15. Juni 2020


Neues Verfahren revolutioniert Corona-Tests

Moderne Sequenziertechnologien analysieren innert Stunden Milliarden von DNA-Bausteinen. Eine Gruppe von Forschenden am Zentrum für funktionelle Genomik zeigt, wie die rasante Technologie für Corona-Reihentests nutzbar gemacht werden kann: Hunderttausende von Tests innert Tagen sind möglich.

UZH News, 12.06.2020


Newly Identified Gene Reduces Pollen Number of Plants

Producing fewer sperm cells can be advantageous in self-fertilizing plants. An international study led by the University of Zurich has identified a gene in the model plant Arabidopsis that reduces the number of pollen. In addition to supporting the evolutionary theory, these findings could help to optimize plant breeding and domestication in agriculture.

UZH Press Release, 8 June 2020


Mice at play

In a unique project, researchers from the University of Zurich have been observing a population of wild house mice for 17 years. They’re learning things they’d never see in the lab. We’ve gone on a field trip to visit them in their barn.

Horizons, 04/06/2020


Coronavirus SARS‐CoV‐2: filtering fact from fiction in the infodemic

Q&A with virologist Professor Urs Greber

FEBS Letters, April 2020


Reading Minds

Thanks to neurotechnology, it could soon be possible to read people’s thoughts, says linguist Balthasar Bickel. While fascinating from a me­dical perspective, it’s also incredibly dangerous. We sat down with the linguistics expert to discuss the future of language and its origins.

UZH Magazin, 1/20


The Social Life of Dolfins

With their ability to maintain life-long friendships and form coalitions within wide social networks, the dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia, display a complex social life. This is a sign of intelligence, says anthropologist Michael Krützen.

UZH Magazin, 1/20


Ancient Hornwort Genomes Could Lead to Crop Improvement

An international research team led by the University of Zurich and the Boyce Thompson Institute illuminate the origin of land plants by analyzing the first hornwort genomes. In this ancient group of land plants, they discovered genes that could help crops grow more efficiently with less synthetic fertilizer.

UZH Press Release, 16 March 2020


Coronavirus: Wir sind noch immer Jäger und Sammler, zumindest ein bisschen

NZZ, 11 March 2020


Herbarium genomics - Opportunities and challenges

PlantScienceNews, No. 37, Spring 2020


Forscher der Uni Zürich entdecken riesiges Schildkröten-Fossil

Die Wissenschaftler haben einen sensationellen Fund gemacht. Nun muss der Stammbaum des Panzertiers überarbeitet werden.

Tagesanzeiger, 13 February 2020


Ausgezeichnete Medizinforschung

Vier Forscher der Universität Zürich und des Universitätsspitals Zürich wurden mit dem Pfizer Forschungspreis 2020 ausgezeichnet. Mit ihrer Forschung leisten sie Beiträge zur Bekämpfung von HIV-Infektionen und Multipler Sklerose.

UZH News, 10 February 2020




Diverse ways to think about cancer

What can we learn about cancer by studying it across the tree of life?

Mètode 103, December 2019


Cellular Traitors

When it comes to disease-causing viruses, medicine is still waiting for a breakthrough. The reason lies in the special way these quasi-living organisms function. Viruses don’t simply attack us; they live in constant symbiosis with us.

UZH Magazin, 4/19


The Power of Language

A new National Center of Competence in Research (NCCR) will be based at the University of Zurich. Entitled “Evolving Language”, it will investigate the origins and future of language. UZH linguist Balthasar Bickel will serve as co-director of the research network alongside Anne-Lise Giraud from the University of Geneva. The national network includes numerous other universities and research institutes within Switzerland.

UZH News, 18 December 2019


Debate: Science Opens Up

Open science is gaining momentum. According to Mark Robinson and Marc Thommen, the open science delegates newly appointed by UZH to support the transformation to greater cooperation, the movement will bring about major changes in the academic system.

UZH Journal, December 2019


Fading Petunias

Through heat, saline soil or aridity, the environment can directly influence the activity of genes. As the biologist Ueli Grossniklaus has demonstrated, in plants these epigenetic changes can sometimes be inherited.

UZH News, 20 October 2019


Analyzing Entrails

Frank Rühli is an evolutionary medicine expert who is conducting pioneering research on mummified entrails. He recently became the first person to study the Egyptian Museum’s collection of canopic jars from an interdisciplinary perspective.

UZH News, 9 October 2019


Exploring the Mystery of Plant Diversity

Professor Kentaro Shimizu (45), of the University of Zurich in Switzerland, is trying to uncover the secrets to plant diversity by decoding plant genes while conducting field work in the Swiss Alps. Most organisms including animals have only about 20,000 to 30,000 genes, and Shimizu is hoping to understand why there are so many different species of organisms living on the earth. Through his research, he's learned that the numbers of chromosomes inherited from parents play a significant role in the evolution and diversification of living organisms. Shimizu is also applying his research findings to creating an improved wheat variety that will survive the changing global environment. We'll follow Professor Shimizu as he explores the mystery of plant diversity.

NHK World-Japan, 4 September 2019


Menschheitsgeschichte in Südamerika vor der Kolonialzeit (in German)

Über das Leben und die Kulturen der Menschen in Südamerika vor der Kolonialzeit gibt es nur wenige Informationen. Eine Studie der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft und der Universität Zürich hat nun neue Erkenntnisse über die Menschheitsgeschichte auf dem Kontinent gewonnen. Interview mit Chiara Barbieri., 29 August 2019


Humans May Have Had Key Role in Cave Bear Extinction

Humans may have played a substantial role in the extinction of the European cave bear at the end of the last ice age. These findings of a study with the involvement of the University of Zurich suggest a drastic cave bear population decline starting around 40,000 years ago.

UZH Press Release, 16 August 2019


Hidden Genetic Variations Power Evolutionary Leaps

Laboratory populations that quietly amass "cryptic" genetic variants are capable of surprising evolutionary leaps, according to a paper in the July 26 issue of Science. A better understanding of cryptic variation may improve directed evolution techniques for developing new biomolecules for medical and other applications.

UZH Press Release, 25 July 2019


A painful legacy

Mice hint at how people’s emotional trauma may affect the biology of their children—and their children’s children.

Science, 19 July 2019


Interplay of Pollinators and Pests Influences Plant Evolution

Brassica rapa plants pollinated by bumblebees evolve more attractive flowers. But this evolution is compromised if caterpillars attack the plant at the same time. With the bees pollinating them less effectively, the plants increasingly self-pollinate. In a greenhouse evolution experiment, scientists at the University of Zurich have shown just how much the effects of pollinators and pests influence each other.

UZH Press Release, 11 April 2019




The Mystery of Hybridization

The University of Zurich offers attractive research opportunities, including such for postdocs from abroad – this becomes clear by looking at some of the researchers who thanks to EU grants have been able to work in the lab of their choice.

UZH Journal, November 2018


Building Bridges with India

Shraddha Karve is a postdoc at the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies. She researches the stress resistance of bacteria and the evolution of proteins. She is currently organizing a conference to strengthen cooperation between researchers from India and UZH. We met with her to find out more.

UZH News, 5 September 2018