Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Hydrobionts

Research pursued by the laboratory is related to two main trends: 1) analysis of ecology and evolutionary biology of aquatic macroinvertebrates, invasion biology and ecosystem functioning,  and 2) assessment of surface water ecological status, its change  and anthropogenic impacts.

The first trend focuses on the exploration of various functional and evolutionary patterns from species functions to food webs and from local adaptation to macroevolutionary processes. Fresh- and brackish-water crustaceans, primarily amphipods and cladocerans are used as model organisms. We integrate multiple research aspects and lines of evidence including genetics/genomics, functional morphology, physiology, stechiometry, geography, geology, fossils, etc. Distributions of endangered and alien species and causes of their change are examined. Species traits that promote invasiveness, alien species adaptations in a new distribution range, and their ecological relationships with native species are investigated. Our focus is put on the Ponto-Caspian malacostracan crustaceans which rapidly spread in Europe and elsewhere. Genetics, respiratory physiology, functional morphology and trophic niches (assessed using conventional and stable isotope methods) are examined in these and native crustaceans.

The second trend is related to the development of methods for the assessment of the ecological status and biological contamination  of lotic (rivers) and lentic (lakes, water reservoirs) water bodies and investigation of the impact of anthropogenic pollution on bioindicator organisms. Using cytogenetic, haematological, enzyme activity and biomarker indicators in various organisms, the magnitude of the ecotoxicological risk is assessed in marine and freshwater ecosystems and after technogenic accidents. We perform developmental disorder evaluation and karyologic and other DNA investigations. By integration of taxonomic, functional and [phylo]genetic diversity and using statistical models we analyse long-term and spatial changes in aquatic macroinvertebrate assemblages caused by anthropogenic impacts, which may improve our understanding and allow prognosis of status changes in Lithuanian surface waters.