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Max-Planck-Institut für Evolutionsbiologie

About the Institute

The Max Planck Institute for Limnology performs ecological research on inland waters. It has presently two departments and two independent research groups, which encompass the fields of evolutionary ecology, physiological ecology, stream ecology, and tropical ecology at the land-water interface of large rivers in Brazil.

The main institute is located in Plön, a small town in the heart of a lake district called the Holsteinische Schweiz, which is approximately 30 km southeast of Kiel in Schleswig-Holstein (northern Germany). The stream ecology group is based in Schlitz (Hessen, Germany), while the tropical ecology group maintains lab and field facilities in Manaus (Brazil).

Some remarks to the history of the institute: The institute was founded in 1892 as "Hydrobiologische Station zu Plön" and under the new director August Thienemann took over by the "Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gesellschaft". Past 1948 the institute was continued by the Max-Planck-Society. In 1949 the so-called "Fuldastation" was affiliated to the "Hydrobiologische Anstalt" as an outpost (today: Limnological River Unit). In 1957 August Thienemann´s succession Harald Sioli was established as managing director and independent group leader. In 1966 the former "Hydrobiologische Anstalt" was renamed in "Max-Planck-Institute for Limnology" and divided into two departments, which did research on inland water and the surrounding landscapes in two different environments: The department for general limnology (Jürgen Overbeck) with its outpost limnological river unit and the department for tropical ecology (Harald Sioli). After the retirement of Harald Sioli (1978) inside the department for tropical ecology two new research groups were founded: Physiological ecology and tropical ecology. In 1984 the new department for physiological ecology (Winfried Lampert) was founded and the department for general limnology was renamed to microbe ecology and the department for tropical ecology was canceled. In 1992 after the retirement of Jürgen Overbeck the department of microbe ecology was canceled too and the working group for tropical ecology (Wolfgang Jung) and the limnological river unit (Peter Zwick) were established as independent working groups. In 1999 the new department for evolutionary ecology (Manfred Milinski) was founded.

Research Units

Department of Physiological Ecology

Mechanic models of interactions in the free water area of lakes; control of the structure of communities by resource competition and predator-prey relations; food webs analysis using stable isotopes; microbial ecology of methanotrophic bacteria; chemical communication in aquatic ecosystems; significance of intraspecific variability in populations of algae and zooplacton; evolution of life cycle strategies; interactions in microbial food webs; distribution of nitrificating and denitrificating bacteriae in resource gradients; population genetics: clonal structure of parthenogenetic free rang populations; interspecific hybridisation; significance of long term state banks in the sediment. Director: Prof. Dr. Winfried Lampert

Department of Evolutionary Ecology

Coevolution in host-parasite systems; sexual selection; evolution of mate choice: fitness consequences of mate choice for immunocompetence and virulence; life-history strategies; population genetics of host-parasite systems; evolution of complex parasite life cycles; strategies in the hermaphrodite´s dilemma; predator-prey interactions; evolutionary ecology of competition; cooperation in the prisoner´s dilemma. Director: Prof. Dr. Manfred Milinski

Work Group for Tropical Ecology

The ecology of tropical flooded areas with crucial point Amazonia and Pantanal, Brasil: Structure and function of flooded areas dependent on flood pulse, sediment and geochemical conditions; adaptation of organisms to the change between aquatic and terrestric phase; primary production and photosynthesis depending on the flood pulse; decomposition of organic material, food webs and bio element cycles; biodiversity. Leader: Prof. Dr. Wolfgang J. Junk, Telephone: 04522/763-234

Limnological River Unit Schlitz (Hessen)

Exemplary study about the structure and function of the running water ecosystem Breitenbach near Schlitz; collection of metereological base data of the are; abiotic factors in the rivulet; ecologic role of bacteria in the water, use of nutrients in different sediment types; use of bacterial bio mass by the fauna; investigations into the intraspecific and interspecific competition; research into allochtone organic material; limiting factors for the growth of running water animals. Leader: Prof. Dr. Peter Zwick, Telephone: 06642/960-330


Max-Planck-Institut für Evolutionsbiologie
Postfach 165
24302 Plön
Tel: +49 (0)4522 763 - 0
Fax: +49 (0)4522 763 - 310

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