Ass.Prof. Ovidiu Paun

Group Leader, Plant Ecological Genomics

phone: +43-1-4277-540 57

fax: +43-1-4277-8-540 57


My group investigates why and how organisms diversify. For this aim, we focus on adaptation and divergence as fundamental evolutionary processes. We use integrative approaches, built upon a genomics core, in order to understand how organisms speciate and spread across niches, including some novel to their groups.

By integrating molecular data in their environmental context, we investigate natural populations of non-model and model organisms in order to explain the origin of biodiversity and its dynamics. Of particular interest for me is to understand the role of the environment in the evolutionary process. An important aim in my recent work is the exploration of the role of epigenetic variation in adaptive evolution.

Selected Publications

Balao F, ..., Paun O. 2017. Adaptive sequence evolution is driven by biotic stress in a pair of orchid species (Dactylorhiza) with distinct ecological optima. Molecular Ecology 26: 3649-3662.

Trucchi E, ..., Paun O. 2017. Genomic analyses suggest parallel ecological divergence in Heliosperma pusillum (Caryophyllaceae). New Phytologist 216: 267-278.

Paun O, Turner B et al. 2016. Processes driving the adaptive radiation of a tropical tree (Diospyros, Ebenaceae) in New Caledonia, a biodiversity hotspot. Systematic Biology 65: 212-217

Trucchi E, Mazzarella AB, ..., Paun O. 2016. BsRADseq: screening DNA methylation in natural populations of non-model species. Molecular Ecology 25: 1697-1713

Balao F, Tannhäuser M, ..., Paun O. 2016. Genetic differentiation and admixture between sibling allopolyploids in the Dactylorhiza majalis complex. Heredity 116: 351–361

Paun O, Bateman RM et al. 2010. Stable epigenetic effects and adaptation in allopolyploid orchids (Dactylorhiza: Orchidaceae). Molecular Biology and Evolution 27: 2465-2473 *Reviewed as “of special interest” by Richards 2011, Curr Opin Plant Biol 14: 204

Paun O, Bateman R et al. 2011. Altered gene expression and ecological divergence in sibling allopolyploids of Dactylorhiza (Orchidaceae). BMC Evolutionary Biology 11: 113

Paun O, Forest F et al. 2009. Hybrid speciation in angiosperms: parental divergence drives ploidy. New Phytologist 182: 507-518

Paun O, Schönswetter P et al. 2008. Historical divergence versus contemporary gene flow: evolutionary history of the calcicole Ranunculus alpestris group (Ranunculaceae) in the European Alps and the Carpathians. Molecular Ecology 17:4263-4275

Paun O, Fay MF et al. 2007. Genetic and epigenetic alterations after hybridization and genome doubling. Taxon 56: 649-656 [New Trends in Plant Systematics column]

Paun O, Stuessy TF, Hörandl E. 2006. The role of hybridization, polyploidization and glaciation in the origin and evolution of the apomictic Ranunculus cassubicus complex. New Phytologist 171: 223-236


For full list of publications see:

Biographical Info

Since 2015: Assistant Professor at the University of Vienna, Austria.

Since 2010: Group Leader at the University of Vienna, Austria.

2008 - 2010: Marie Curie Research Fellow at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, U.K..

2006 - 2008: Erwin Schrödinger Postdoctoral Fellow at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, U.K..

2006 - 2006: Postdoc at University of Vienna, Austria.

Academic training

Dec 2005: PhD in Evolutionary Biology at University of Vienna. Awarded Dr. rer. nat. Dissertation: "Evolution of apomixis in the Ranunculus cassubicus group". Supervisors: Elvira Hörandl and Tod Stuessy.

Jul 2000: Degree in Horticulture, University of Agronomical Sciences, Bucharest, Romania. Awarded Dipl. Ing.

Grant support as Principal Investigator or Coordinator

START grant (Austrian Science Fund, FWF for the Austrian Ministry of Science, BMWF): "Evolution through recurrent allopolyploidization"(Y661, 2013 - 2019, €1.2M).

FWF Stand-alone grant (Austrian Science Fund, FWF): "Evolution through recurrent allopolyploidization" (P25363-B16, 2013 - 2016, funded €348K, given up after 6 months to take up the START grant).

Marie Curie Intra-European Grant (EU Commission): "transadaptation" (2013 - 2015, €180K).

Marie Curie Reintegration Grant (EU Commission): "polyadaptation" (2011 - 2014, €45K).

FWF Stand-alone grant (Austrian Science Fund, FWF): "Transcript architecture of ecological adaptation in sibling allopolyploid lineages (Dactylorhiza)" (P22260-B16, 2010 - 2012, €145K).

Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (EU Commission): "dactgene" (2008 - 2010, €169K).

Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship (Austrian Science Fund, FWF): "Genetic consequences of allopolyploidization in Dactylorhiza" (J2604, 2006 - 2008, €80K).

Honors and Awards

2013 START Prize. Austrian Science Fund (FWF) for the Austrian Ministry of Science (BMWF).

2009 Elected fellow of the Linnean Society, London.

2007 Marie Curie Fellowship. EU Commission.

2006 Erwin Schrödinger Fellowship. Austrian Science Fund (FWF).

2006 Best Presentation Award from the Systematics Association at "the Young Systematists Forum", Natural History Museum, London.

2002 IAPT Award for young investigators in Plant Systematics. International Association for Plant Taxonomy (IAPT).



Faculty Member

Reviewer - Funding Agencies

NERC - Natural Environment Research Council (U.K.) • NSF - US National Science Foundation (U.S.) • The Leverhulme Trust (U.K.) • DFG - German Research Foundation (Germany) • The Royal Society (U.K.) • Leibnitz Gemeinschaft (Germany) • NWO - Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (The Netherlands) • National Authority for Scientific Research (Romania) • FCT - Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (Portugal)

Associate Editor

Botanical Journal of Linnean Society (for Population genetics). ISI IF 2.5

Reviewer - Selected Scientific Journals

PLoS Genetics • Molecular Ecology • New Phytologist • Scientific Reports • PLoS One • BMC Genomics • Journal of Biogeography • Heredity • Ecography • BMC Evolutionary Biology • Philosophical Trnasactions of the Royal Society B

Organization of International Symposia

2017: 40th New Phytologist Symposium - "Plant epigenetics: from mechanisms to ecological relevance", Vienna, Austria (local organiser).

2015: "Evolutionary Epigenetics: Switching from Models to the Field" at the ESEB meeting, Lausanne, Switzerland (with C. Alonso, Estacion Biologica de Donana, Spain).

2015: "Speciation Genomics" at the meeting of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution, Vienna, Austria (with P. Novikova, GMI, Austria).

2013: "Evolutionary Epigenetics" at the BioSystEU2013 Congress, Vienna, Austria.

2011: "The Role of Heritable Epigenetic Variation in Plant Evolution" at the XVIII International Botanical Congress, Melbourne, Australia.