Previously deemed extremely slow, adaptive processes can in fact take place on several temporal and structural levels. From climate change to internal catastrophes like hybridization or whole-genome doubling leading to polyploidization, sudden alterations in the environment drive rapid adaptive shifts. Despite tremendous recent advances, we still do not fully understand the extent and timescale of interactions between genotype, epigenotype and environment, and their individual contributions to adaptation, phenotypic divergence and evolution.

Our group broadly 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 us is to understand the role of the environment in the evolutionary process. An important theme in our recent work is the exploration of the role of epigenetic variation in adaptive evolution.


Plant epigenetics: from mechanisms to ecological relevance - 40th New Phytologist Symposium, Sept. 2017 in Vienna, Austria

Rennweg 14, 1030 Wien, airal photography

Selected publications

For the complete publication list see here.

Brandrud MK, Baar J, ..., Paun O. 2020. Phylogenomic relationships of diploids and the origins of allotetraploids in Dactylorhiza (Orchidaceae). Systematic Biology 69: 91-109.

Paun O, Verhoeven K, Richards C. 2019. Opportunities and limitations of reduced representation bisulfite sequencing in plant ecological epigenomics. New Phytologist 221: 738-742.

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

Balao F, Trucchi E, ..., 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.

Richards CL, Alonso C, et al. 2017. Ecological plant epigenetics: Evidence from model and non-model species, and the way forward. Ecology Letters 20: 1576–1590.

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.

Taberlet P, Zimmermann NE, et al. 2012. Genetic diversity in widespread species is not congruent with species richness in alpine plant communities. Ecology Letters 15: 1439-1448.

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

Paun O, Bateman RM, et al. 2010. Stable epigenetic effects and adaptation in allopolyploid orchids (Dactylorhiza: Orchidaceae). Molecular Biology and Evolution 27: 2465-2473.