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Experimental Ecology and Evolution

The Division of Ecology focusses on cooperative interactions between different organisms. Our main goal is to identify the molecular and ecological factors that favor the evolution of these interactions as well as to determine the physiological and evolutionary consequences that result for the participating individuals and populations. We address these issues by using the exchange of essential metabolites amongst two or more bacterial strains as an experimentally tractable model.

Research topics

  • Evolution of cooperation
  • Synergistic coevolution
  • Dynamics of ecological interaction networks
  • Bacterial multicellularity
  • Phenotypic heterogeneity

Model systems

  • Metabolic cross-feeding interactions within and between bacterial species
  • Natural and synthetic microbial communities
  • Predator-prey interactions (i.e. ciliate-bacteria)


  • Experimental evolution
  • Synthetic ecology
  • Theoretical biology (models and simulation)
  • Microscopy and microfluidics
  • Genomics
  • Analytical chemistry

Selected publications

Oña L, Giri S, Avermann N, Kreienbaum M, Thormann KM, Kost C (2021) Obligate cross-feeding expands the metabolic niche of bacteria. Nat Ecol Evol, accepted, doi: 10.1038/s41559-021-01505-0. pdf

Preussger D, Giri S, Muhsal LK, Oña L, Kost C (2020) Reciprocal fitness feedbacks promote the evolution of mutualistic cooperation. Curr Biol, 30, 3580-3590, doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2020.06.100. pdf

D’Souza G, Shitut S, Preussger D, Yousif G, Waschina S, Kost C (2018) Ecology and evolution of metabolic cross-feeding interactions in bacteria. Natural Product Reports, 35, 455-488, doi: 10.1039/C8NP00009C. pdf