Molecular Ecology and Global Climate Change in the Lorenzen Group
The Lorenzen Group investigates the response of mammal species and communities to past climatic events. The insights further our understanding of the resilience of these species – and of the ecosystems in which they are embedded and interact – to near-future projections of global climate change.
Research in the Lorenzen group straddles the interface of several disciplines in evolutionary ecology: population genomics, ancient DNA, molecular ecology.
We apply cutting-edge laboratory and computational genomic methodologies (often developed by others to study our own species) to investigate the evolutionary ecology of megafauna (large mammal) populations in the wild.
Using genomic methods, we investigate past and present populations of megafauna species, in both marine and terrestrial ecosystems. We integrate our findings with insights from other research fields, including the palaeosciences and climate change research, to understand species and community dynamics across time and space.
The interdisciplinary nature of our research means that our work is highly collaborative, involving colleagues from academic institutions around the world, and public partner institutions also.
Louis M, Skovrind M, Samaniego Castruita JA, Garilao C, Kaschner K, Gopalakrishnan S, Haile JS, Lydersen C, Kovacs KM, Garde E, Heide-Jørgensen MP, Postma L, Ferguson S, Willerslev E, Lorenzen ED (2020) Influence of past climatic change on phylogeography and demographic history of narwhals. Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology, 287: 20192964. http://dx.doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2019.2964
We present the first range-wide analysis of narwhals, using mitochondrial genomes. We find very low levels of mitogenome diversity in the species – among the lowest reported in any cetacean species analysed to date – and uncover a lack of population structuring across its Atlantic Arctic range.
Skovrind M, Samaniego Castruita JA, Haile J, Treadaway EC, Gopalakrishnan S, Westbury MV, Heide-Jørgensen MP, Szpak P, Lorenzen ED (2019) Hybridization between two high Arctic cetaceans confirmed by genomic analysis. Scientific Reports, 9, 7729. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-019-44038-0
We document, for the first time, hybridization between narwhals and belugas, the only toothed whales endemic to the Arctic. Our genomic analysis of an anomalous whale skull from the collections in the Natural History Museum of Denmark unraveled the origin of the individual: it is the hybrid son of a narwhal mother and a beluga father. Stable isotope analysis showed the hybrid had a foraging ecology unlike that of either parental species. Background story of the paper can be found here.
Westbury MV, Petersen B, Garde E, Heide-Jørgensen MP, Lorenzen ED (2019) Narwhal genome reveals long-term low genetic diversity despite current large census population size. iScience, 15, 592–599. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2019.03.023
Study presents the narwhal reference genome, and documents long-term low population size in narwhals, suggesting the ability of species to survive over the long term with very low levels of genetic diversity. Sequencing of the narwhal genome was funded by a grant from Dr Margrethe og Prins Henriks Fond.
- Danish Council for Independent Research, Sapere Aude: DFF-Starting Grant
- Danish Council for Independent Research, DFF-Research Project 1
- Carlsberg Foundation Distinguished Associate Professor Fellowship
- Villum Foundation Young Investigator Programme
- Dr Margrethe og Prins Henriks Fond
- Danish Environmental Protection Agency, Ministry of Environment and Food
- Dutch Research Council (NWO Dutch: Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek). Research grant to postdoc Andrea Cabrera