Lerp, Hannes Dr.

Curriculum Vitae


since 2013  Post-Doc, Gene expression in parasitized ants of Temnothorax nylanderi, Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz 
2009 - 2013 Dissertation, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-University Frankfurt: “The phylogeny of the genus Gazella and phylogeography and population genetics of Arabian species“, Dissertation submitted: 08/2013
2004 - 2009         Study Diplom-Biologie, University of Leipzig, Diplom thesis title: „Genetische und morphologische Untersuchungen des Artkomplexes Arvicola amphibius/scherman“       



Research Interests

Speciation, Adaptive Radiation and Behavioral Genomics

I am interested in the effects of parasitation on gene expression patterns leading to different phenotypes and behavior. Here, ants provide a very interesting study system for such investigations as parasitation influences multiple levels, i.e., it affects not only individual but also colony fitness.

Moreover, I am interested in evolutionary young systems where speciation is not yet finished. The question which factors drive speciation between closely related taxa albeit gene flow still exists is of particular interest for me. In order to investigate this I use molecular methods to quantify genetic differentiation and gene flow.


Behavioral genomics

Ants of the species Temnothorax nylanderi are known to serve as host for the endoparasitic tapeworm Anomotaenia brevis. Infected ants are mostly inactive and show a distinct morphology, i.e., their cuticle is yellow and they are smaller. Moreover, non-infected nest mates also change their behavior and buffer the inactivity of parasitized ants to such an extent that per-capita productivity is not reduced compared with healthy colonies. In order to investigate the genomic basis of the behavioral changes observable due to infection we compile the transcriptomes of infected workers, non-infected workers from parasitized colonies and non-infected workers from healthy colonies using their brains as source. Thereof, we would like to determine candidate genes, whose expression is changed compared to the control group and classify their function in subsequent investigations, e.g., using qPCR to investigate tissue specificity and RNAi to artificially modify the gene expression in single ants that will be subject to behavioral studies.

Secondary contact zones

When populations become separated through certain geological events, e.g., an ice age, genetic drift or adaptation to different selection pressures can occur in allopatry and finally can result in different evolutionary histories. If those populations come into secondary contact, reproductive isolation might not be complete depending on the degree of differentiation that emerged during the time of independent evolution. Investigating such populations offer the opportunity to infer the amount and kind of genetic material that get from one into the adjacent population without reproductive barriers between both being reduced (introgression). Especially in populations that still interbreed but hybrids show reduced fitness introgression could particularly well be investigated. The sister species of ants Temnothorax nylanderi and T. crassispinus are particularly well suited for such research, since they were separated during the Last Glacial Maximum, then came into secondary contact and today their hybrids show reduced fitness.


Bärmann EV, Azanza B, Wronski T, Lerp H, Börner S, Erpenbeck D, Rössner GE, Wörheide G (2013) A morphometric and genetic framework for the genus Gazella de Blainville, 1816 (Ruminantia: Bovidae) with special focus on Arabian and Levantine Mountain gazelles. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 169: 673-696.

Plath M, Pfenninger M, Lerp H, Riesch R, Eschenbrenner C,  Slattery PA, Bierbach D, Herrmann N, Schulte M, Arias–Rodriguez L, Rimber Indy J, Passow C, Tobler M (2013) Genetic differentiation and selection against migrants in evolutionarily replicated extreme environments. Evolution 67: 2647-2661.

Palacios M, Arias-Rodriguez L, Plath M, Eifert C, Lerp H, Lamboj A, Voelker G, Tobler M (2013) The rediscovery of a long described species reveals additional complexity in speciation patterns and the taxonomy of poeciliid fishes in sulfide springs. PLoS One 8: e71069.

Riesch R, Martin RA, Lerp H, Plath M, Wronski T (2013) Size and sex matter: reproductive biology and intrinsic determinants of offspring survival in Gazella marica. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 110: 116–127.

Lerp H, Wronski T, Butynski T, Plath M (2013) Speciation of Arabian gazelles. In: Michalak P (ed.) Speciation: Natural Processes, Genetics and Biodiversity. pp. 59-82. Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge, NY.

Lerp H, Wronski T, Plath M, Schröter A, Pfenninger M (2013) Phylogenetic and population genetic analyses suggest a potential species boundary between Mountain (Gazella gazella) and Arabian Gazelles (G. arabica) in the Levant. Mammalian Biology 78: 383–386.

Slattery P, Eschenbrenner C, Arias-Rodriguez L, Streit B, Bierbach D, Riesch R, Tobler M, Pfenninger M, Feldmeyer B, Plath M, Lerp H (2012) Twelve new microsatellite loci for the sulphur molly (Poecilia sulphuraria) and the related Atlantic molly (P. mexicana). Conservation Genetics Resources 4: 935–937.

Omer SA, Wronski T, Alwash A, Bachmann A, Raza HA, Elamin MH, Mohammed OB, Lerp H (2012) Evidence for persistence and a major range extension of the Arabian Smooth-coated Otter, Lutrogale perspicillata maxwelli (Mustellidae, Carnivora) in Iraq. Folia Zoologica 61: 172–176.

Wronski T, Bierbach D, Czupalla L, Lerp H, Ziege M, Cunningham P, Plath M (2012) Rival presence leads to reversible changes in male mate choice of a desert dwelling ungulate. Behavioral Ecology 23: 551–558.

Lerp H, Wronski T, Pfenninger M, Plath M (2011) A phylogeographic framework for the conservation of Saharan and Arabian dorcas gazelles. Organisms Diversity & Evolution 11: 317–329.

Wronski T, Lerp H, Ismail K (2011) Reproductive biology and life history traits of Arabian Oryx (Oryx leucoryx) founder females reintroduced into Mahazat As-Sayd, Saudi Arabia. Mammalian Biology 76: 506–511.

Wacher T, Wronski T, Hammond RL, Winney B, Blacket MJ, Hundertmark K, Mohammed OB, Omer S, Macasero W, Lerp H, Plath M, Bleidorn C (2011) Phylogenetic analysis of mitochondrial DNA sequences reveals non-monophyly in the Goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa). Conservation Genetics 12: 827–831.