Walter Salzburger

Universität Basel
Zoologisches Institut
Vesalgasse 1
CH-4051 Basel


+41 (0)61 267 03 03

+41 (0)61 267 03 01


Walter Salzburger

Assistant Professor (with tenure-track)

Current research

I am interested in the evolution of animals, the adaptation of animals to their environments, and the generation of ecological, morphological, behavioral and genetic diversity. In particular, I am interested in the molecular basis of evolution, the processes that underlie adaptation, innovation, and speciation, and the evolution of genes and genomes during adaptive radiation and speciation.
Cichlid fishes are the most fascinating model organisms to me. These tropical freshwater-fishes show a Gondwanian distribution, with extant representatives in India, Madagascar, South- and Central America, and Africa. With more than 2'000 species that evolved in the last few million years only the species flocks of cichlids in the East African Great Lakes Tanganyika, Malawi and Victoria represent the most astounding examples of adaptive radiation and explosive speciation. I am interested in the evolution of the cichlids' unique biodiversity, in the intrinsic factors that underlie the cichlids' propensity for explosive speciation, and in the external (environmental) events that trigger their radiations. In particular, I am interested in the molecular genetic and genomic bases of the evolutionary success of cichlids.
A second line of my research focuses on the biology of European taxa, with special emphasis to Alpine animals. The Alps are the main mountain range in Central Europe and, as such, of great significance to the fauna and flora. I am interested in the bio-geographic history of several vertebrate groups in the Alps and surrounding regions and in the adaptation of these species to the Alpine environment.

Curriculum vitae

Born in 1975 in Tyrol, Austria
2007- Assistant Professor, Zoological Institute, University of Basel
2006-2007 Junior Group Leader (Mâitre Assistant), Department of Ecology and Evolution, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
2002-2006 Junior Research Fellow, Center of Junior Research Fellows, University of Konstanz, Germany
2001-2006 Post-doctoral Fellow with Prof. Axel Meyer, University of Konstanz, Germany
1998-2001 Doctoral Thesis Work with Prof. Christian Sturmbauer, University of Innsbruck, Austria
1993-1998 Study of Biology (Zoology), University of Innsbruck, Austria

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Papers (click here for .pdf's)


61. Theis A, W Salzburger & B Egger. 2012. The function of anal fin egg-spots in the cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni. PLoS ONE 7: e29878.


60. Diepeveen ET & W Salzburger. 2011. Molecular characterization of two endothelin pathways in East African cichlid fishes. Journal of Molecular Evolution 73: 355-368.
59. Egger B, Y Klaefiger, A Theis & W Salzburger. 2011. A sensory bias has triggered the evolution of egg-spots in cichlid fishes. PLoS ONE 6: e25601.
58. Rutschmann S, M Matschiner, M Damerau, M Muschick, MF Lehmann, R Hanel & W Salzburger. 2011. Parallel ecological diversification in Antarctic notothenioid fishes as evidence for adaptive radiation. Molecular Ecology 20: 4707-4721.
57. Kuales G, K De Moulder, J Glashauser, W Salvenmoser, S Takashima, V Hartenstein, E Berezikov, W Salzburger & P Lardurner. 2011. Boule-like genes regulate male and female gametogenesis in the flatworm Macrostomum lignano. Developmental Biology 357: 117-132.
56. Baldo L, ME Santos & W Salzburger. 2011. Comparative transcriptomics of Eastern African cichlid fishes shows signs of positive selection and a large contribution of untranslated regions to genetic diversity. Genome Biology and Evolution 3: 443-455.
55. Muschick M, M Barluenga, W Salzburger & A Meyer. 2011. Adaptive phenotypic plasticity in the Midas cichlid fish pharyngeal jaw and its relevance in adaptive radiation. BMC Evolutionary Biology 11: 116.
54. Heule C & W Salzburger. 2011. The ontogenetic development of egg-spots in the haplochromine cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni. Journal of Fish Biology 78: 1588-1593.
53. Koblmüller S, Salzburger W, Obermüller B, Eigner E, Sturmbauer C & K Sefc. 2011. Separated by sand, fused by dropping water: habitat barriers and fluctuating water levels steer the evolution of rock-dwelling cichlid populations in Lake Tanganyika Molecular Ecology 20: 2272-2290.
52. Matschiner M, Hanel R & W Salzburger. 2011. On the origin and trigger of the notothenioid adaptive radiation. PLoS One 6: e18911.
51. Svenson O, Egger B, Gricar B, Woodhouse K, van Oosterhout C, Salzburger W, Seehausen O & GF Turner. 2011. Segregation of species-specific male attractiveness in F2 hybrid Lake Malawi cichlid fish. International Journal of Evolutionary Biology 2011: 426179.
50. Salzburger W, Ewing GB & A von Haeseler. 2011. he performance of phylogenetic algorithms in estimating haplotype genealogies. Molecular Ecology 20: 1952-1963.
49. Gunter H, Clabaut C, Salzburger W, Jones JC & A Meyer. 2011. Identification and characterization of gene expression involved in the coloration of cichlid fish using microarray and qRT-PCR approaches. Journal of Molecular Evolution 72: 127-137.
48. Engel P, Salzburger W, Liesch M, Chang CC, Maruyama S, Lanz C, Calteau A, Lajus A, Medigue C, Schuster SC & C Dehio. 2011. Parallel evolution of a type IV secretion system in radiating lineages of the host-restricted bacterial pathogen Bartonella PLoS Genetics 7: e1001296.


47. Berner D, M Roesti, AP Hendry & W Salzburger. 2010. Constraints on speciation suggested by comparing lake-stream stickleback divergence across two continents. Molecular Ecology 19: 4963-4978.
46. Muenzel FM, W Salzburger W, Sanetra M, Grabherr B & A Meyer. 2010. Genetic structure of the vairone (Telestes souffia, Risso 1826) in the eastern part of Lake Constance, Central Europe. Journal of Fish Biology 77: 1158-1164.
45. Sturmbauer C, W Salzburger, N Duftner, R Schelly & S Koblmüller. 2010. Evolutionary history of the Lake Tanganyika cichlid tribe Lamprologini (Teleostei: Perciformes) derived from mitochondrial and nuclear DNA data. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 57: 266-284.
44. Lee HJ, S Pittlik, JC Jones, W Salzburger, M Barluenga & A Meyer. 2010. Genetic support for random mating between left and right-mouth morphs in the dimorphic scale-eating cichlid fish Perissodus microlepis from Lake Tanganyika. Journal of Fish Biology 76: 1940-1957.
43. Marchetto F, S Zaccara, FM Muenzel & W Salzburger. 2010. Phylogeography of the Italian vairone (Telestes muticellus, Bonaparte 1837) inferred by microsatellite markers: evolutionary history of a freshwater fish species with a restricted and fragmented distribution. BMC Evolutionary Biology 10: 111.


42. Elmer KR, C Reggio, T Wirth, E Verheyen, W Salzburger & A Meyer. 2009. Pleistocene desiccation in East Africa bottlenecked but did not extirpate the adaptive radiation of Lake Victoria haplochromine cichlid fishes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106: 13404-13409.
41. Salzburger W, D Steinke, I Braasch & A Meyer. 2009. Genome diversification in Eutherians: Can gene deserts explain the uneven distribution of genes in placental mammalian genomes? Journal of Molecular Evolution 69: 207-216.
40. Matschiner M, R Hanel & W Salzburger. 2009. Gene flow by larval dispersal in the Antarctic notothenioid fish Gobionotothen gibberifrons. Molecular Ecology 18: 2574-2587.
39. Egger B☯, D Steinke☯, H Tarui☯, K De Mulder, D Arendt, G Borgonie, N Funayama, R Gschwentner, V Hartenstein, B Hobmayer, M Hooge, M Hrouda, S Ishida, C Kobayashi, G Kuales, O Nishimura, D Pfister, R Rieger, W Salvenmoser, J Smith III, U Technau, S Tyler, K Agata, W Salzburger & P Ladurner. 2009. To be or not to be a flatworm: The acoel controversy. PLoS One 4: e5502.
38. Matschiner M & W. Salzburger. 2009. TANDEM: integrating automated allele binning into genetics and genomics workflows. Bioinformatics 25: 1982-1983.


37. R Abila, W Salzburger, MF Ndonga, DO Owiti, M Barluenga & A Meyer. 2008. The role of the Yala swamp lakes in the conservation of Lake Victoria region haplochromine cichlids: Evidence from genetic and trophic ecology studies. Lakes and Reservoirs: Research and Management 13: 95-104.
36. Salzburger W☯, SCP Renn☯, D Steinke☯, I Braasch, HH Hofmann & A Meyer. 2008. Annotation of expressed sequence tags for the East African cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni and evolutionary analyses of cichlid ORFs. BMC Genomics 9: 96.


35. Salzburger W☯, I Braasch☯ & A Meyer. 2007. Adaptive sequence evolution in a color gene involved in the formation of the characteristic egg-dummies of male haplochromine cichlid fishes. BMC Biology 5: 51.
34. Duftner N, KM Sefc, S Koblmüller, W Salzburger, M Taborsky & C Sturmbauer. 2007. Parallel evolution of facial stripe patterns in the Neolamprologus brichardi/pulcher species complex endemic to Lake Tanganyika. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 45: 706-715.
33. Münzel F, M Sanetra, W Salzburger & A Meyer. 2007. Microsatellites from the vairone Leuciscus souffia (Pisces: Cyprinidae) and their application to closely related species. Molecular Ecology Notes 7: 1048-1050.
32. Siegel N, S Hoegg, W Salzburger, I Braasch & A Meyer. 2007. Comparative genomics of ParaHox clusters of teleost fishes: gene cluster breakup and the retention of gene sets following whole genome duplication. BMC Genomics 8: 312.
31. Gavrilets S, A Vose, M Barluenga, W Salzburger & A Meyer. 2007. Case studies and mathematical models of ecological speciation: Cichlids in a crater lake. Molecular Ecology 16: 2893-2909.
30. Clabaut C, PME Bunje, W Salzburger & A Meyer. 2007. Geometric morphometric analyses provide evidence for the adaptive character of the Tanganyikan cichlid radiation. Evolution 61: 560-578.
29. Sefc KM, S Baric, W Salzburger & C Sturmbauer. 2007. Species-specific population structure in rock-specialist cichlid fishes in Lake Tanganyika. Journal of Molecular Evolution 64: 33-49.


28. Koblmüller S, C Sturmbauer, E Verheyen, A Meyer & W Salzburger. 2006. Mitochondrial phylogeny and phylogeography of East African squeaker catfishes (Siluriformes: Synodontis). BMC Evolutionary Biology 6: 49.
27. Steinke D, W Salzburger & A Meyer. 2006. Novel relationships among ten fish model species revealed based on a phylogenomic analysis using ESTs. Journal of Molecular Evolution 62: 722-784.
26. Luo J, M Lang, W Salzburger, N Siegel, KN Stoelting & A Meyer. 2006. A BAC library for the goldfish Carassius auratus auratus (Cyprinidae, Cypriniformes). Journal of Experimental Zoology (Mol Dev Evol) 306B: 567-574.
25. Braasch I, W Salzburger & A Meyer. 2006. Asymmetric evolution in two fish-specifically duplicated receptor tyrosine kinase paralogons involved in teleost coloration. Molecular Biology and Evolution 23: 1192-1202.
24. Steinke D, W Salzburger, I Braasch & A Meyer. 2006. Many genes in fish have species-specific asymmetric rates of molecular evolution. BMC Genomics 7: 20.
23. Meyer A, W Salzburger & M Schartl. 2006. Sexual selection driven hybrid origin of a new species of swordtail (Teleostei: Xiphophorus). Molecular Ecology 15: 721-730.
22. Barluenga M☯, KN Stoelting☯, W Salzburger☯, M Muschick & A Meyer. 2006. Sympatric speciation in Nicaraguan crater lake cichlid fish. Nature 439: 719-724.
21. Lang M, T Miyake, I Braasch, D Tinnemore, N Siegel, W Salzburger, CT Amemiya & A Meyer. 2006. A BAC library for the East African haplochromine cichlid fish Astatotilapia burtoni. Journal of Experimental Zoology (Mol Dev Evol) 360B: 35-44.
20. Salzburger W, H Niederstätter, A Brandstätter, B Berger, W Parson, J Snoeks & C Sturmbauer. 2006. Color-assortative mating in the cichlid species Tropheus moorii from Lake Tanganyika, East Africa. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B 273: 257-266.
19. Schelly R, W Salzburger, S Koblmüller, N Duftner & C Sturmbauer. 2006. Phylogenetic relationships of the lamprologine cichlid genus Lepidiolamprologus (Teleostei: Percifomres) based on mitochondrial and nuclear sequences, suggesting introgressive hybridization. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 38: 426-438.


18. Clabaut C, W Salzburger & A Meyer. 2005. Comparative phylogenetic analysis of Lake Tanganyika cichlids using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA segments. Journal of Molecular Evolution 61: 666-681.
17. Steinke D, M Vences, W Salzburger & A Meyer. 2005. TaxI ¿ A software tool for DNA barcoding using distance methods. Philosophical Transaction of the Royal Society of London 360: 1975-1980.
16. Modolo L, W Salzburger & RD Martin. 2005. Phylogeography of barbary macaques (Macaca sylvanus) and the origin of the Gibraltar colony. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 102: 7392-7397.
15. Salzburger W☯, T Mack☯, E Verheyen & A Meyer. 2005. Out of Tanganyika: Genesis, explosive speciation, key-innovations and phylogeography of the haplochromine cichlid fishes. BMC Evolutionary Biology 5: 17.
14. Brandstätter A, W Salzburger & C Sturmbauer. 2005. Mitochondrial phylogeny of the Cyprichromini, a lineage of open-water cichlid fishes endemic to Lake Tanganyika, East Africa. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 34: 382-391.


13. Steinke D, W Salzburger & A Meyer. 2004. EverEST – a phylogenomic EST database approach. PhyloInformatics 6: 1-4.
12. Abila R, M Barluenga, J Engelken, A Meyer & W Salzburger. 2004. Population-structure of a haplochromine cichlid fish from a satellite lake of Lake Victoria. Molecular Ecology 13: 2589-2602.
11. Egger B, M Meekan, W Salzburger, L Mwape, L Makasa, R Shapola & C Sturmbauer. 2004. Validation of periodicity of increment formation in otoliths of an African cichlid fish species from Lake Tanganyika, Eastern Africa. Journal of Fish Biology 64: 1272-1284.
10. Koblmüller S, W Salzburger & C Sturmbauer. 2004. Evolutionary relationships in the sand-dwelling cichlid lineage of Lake Tanganyika suggest multiple colonization of rocky habitats and convergent origin of biparental mouthbrooding. Journal of Molecular Evolution 58: 79-96.


09. Salzburger W, A Brandstätter, A Gilles, W Parson, M Hempel, C Sturmbauer & A Meyer. 2003. The phylogeography of the vairone (Leuciscus souffia, Risso, 1826) in Central Europe. Molecular Ecology 12: 2371-2386.
08. Sturmbauer C, U Hainz, S Baric, E Verheyen & W Salzburger. 2003. Molecular phylogeny of the Tropheini: Synchronized explosive speciation producing multiple evolutionary parallelisms. Hydrobiologia 500: 51-64.
07. Verheyen E, W Salzburger, J Snoeks & A Meyer. 2003. On the origin of the superflock of cichlid fishes from Lake Victoria, East Africa. Science 300: 325-329.
06. Baric S, W Salzburger & C Sturmbauer. 2003. Phylogeography and evolution of the Tanganyikan cichlid genus Tropheus based upon mitochondrial DNA sequences. Journal of Molecular Evolution 56: 54-68.


05. Salzburger W, J Martens, AA Nazarenko, YH Sun, R Dallinger & C Sturmbauer. 2002. Phylogeography of the Eurasian willow tit (Parus montanus) based on sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 24: 26-34.
04. Salzburger W, J Martens & C Sturmbauer. 2002. Paraphyly of the blue tit (Parus caeruelus) suggested from cytochrome b sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 24: 19-25.
03. Salzburger W, S Baric & C Sturmbauer. 2002. Introgressive hybridization in East African cichlids? Molecular Ecology 11: 619-625.
02. Salzburger W, A Meyer, S Baric, E Verheyen & C Sturmbauer. 2002. Phylogeny of the Lake Tanganyika cichlid species flock and its relationship to the Central- and East-African haplochromine cichlid fish faunas. Systematic Biology 51: 113-135.


01. Sturmbauer C, S Baric, W Salzburger, L Rüber & E Verheyen. 2001. Lake level fluctuations synchronize genetic divergences of cichlid fishes in African lakes. Molecular Biology and Evolution 18: 144-154

Short Communications, News and views

03. Salzburger W. 2008. To be or not to be a hamlet pair in sympatry. Molecular Ecology 17: 1397-1400.
02. Barluenga M, KN Stoelting, W Salzburger, M Muschick & A Meyer. 2006. Evidence for sympatric speciation (reply). Brief Communication Arising. Nature 444: E13.
01. Verheyen E, W Salzburger, J. Snoeks & A Meyer. 2004. Response to comment ‘On the origin of the superflock of cichlid fishes from Lake Victoria, East Africa’. Science 304: 963c.

Review Articles

03. Braasch I & W Salzburger. 2009. In ovo omnia: diversification by duplication in fish and other vertebrates. Journal of Biology 8: 25.
02. Salzburger W. 2009. The interaction of sexually and naturally selected traits in the adaptive radiations of cichlid fishes. Molecular Ecology 18: 169-185.
01. Salzburger W & A Meyer. 2004. The species flocks of East African cichlid fishes: Recent advances in molecular phylogenetics and population genetics. Naturwissenschaften 91: 277-290.


03. Hofer H & W Salzburger. 2008. Biologie 8 – Biologie und Umweltkunde. E. Dorner, Vienna (student textbook, in German).
02. Hofer H & W Salzburger. 2005. Biologie 3 – Biologie und Umweltkunde. E. Dorner, Vienna (student textbook, in German).
01. Hofer H, W Miram & W Salzburger. 2004. Biologie 2 – Biologie und Umweltkunde. E. Dorner, Vienna (student textbook, in German).

Book chapters

02. Salzburger W & HP Ziemeck. 2011. Buntbarsche - Modellorganismen für die wissenschaftsorientierte Bearbeitung der Evolutionsbiologie in der Schule. In: Evolutionsbiologie - Moderne Themen für den Unterricht (eds. Dreesmann D, D Graf & K Witte) pp. 259-277. Spektrum, Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg.
01. Matschiner M, R Hanel & W Salzburger. 2010. Phylogeography and speciation processes in marine fishes and fishes from large freshwater lakes. In: Phylogeography (ed. Rutgers DS). pp. 1-29. Nova Science Publishers.

Selected publications discussing my research

09. Ingram T & DL Mahler. 2011. Niche diversification follows key innovation in Antarctic fish radiation. Molecular Ecology 20: 4590-4591 (Perspective)
08. Spinney L. 2010. Dreampond revisited. Nature 466: 174-175 (News Feature)
07. Arnold ML. 2006. Evolution through genetic exchange. Oxford University Press (pp. 74-75)
06. Jiggins CD. 2006. Sympatric speciation: why the controversy? Current Biology 16: 333-334 (Dispatch)
05. Ortiz/Barrientos D & LH Rieseberg. 2006. Splitting when together. Heredity 97: 2-3 (News and Commentary)
04. Pennisi E. 2006. Speciation standing in place. Science 311: 1372-1374 (NewsFocus)
03. Hopkin M. 2006. One place, one parent, two species. Nature 439: 640-641 (News)
02. Dawkins R. 2004. The ancestor's tale: A pilgrim to the Dawn of Life. Weidenfeld & Nicolson (pp. 281-287)
01. Kocher TD. 2003. Fractious phylogenies. Nature 423: 489-491 (News and Views).