Sylvia Ritter


Helmholtz Centre
for Environmental Research - UFZ
Department of Community Ecology
Theodor-Lieser-Str. 4
D-06120 Halle, Germany

Phone: +49 345 5585 312
Fax: +49 345 5585 329

Curriculum vitae

1998 - 2006

Study of biology at the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Germany with a major in behavioural biology and minors in genetics and nature conservation


Ecological field study: "Food transport and reproductive success of the Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus" at the "Natuurcentrum Ameland"/Netherlands


Behavioural studies in primates: "Observations of pairwise kept chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) and the evaluation of the housing system" at the University of Halle, Institute of Zoology, Department of Behavioural Biology (Prof. Dr. Rolf Gattermann) in cooperation with the zoological garden of Halle, Germany

2005 - 2006

Diploma thesis: "Investigations of the population-density, burrow dispersal patterns and the burrow-using behaviour of the Common Hamster (Cricetus cricetus L., 1758) on an intensively cultivated agrarian field" at the University of Halle, Institute of Zoology, Department of Behavioural Biology (Prof. Dr. Rolf Gattermann) in cooperation with the NGO for environmental protection BUND Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

since 2007

PhD student at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research UFZ, Department of Community Ecology

Research interests

Generally I am interested in interspecific relationships between animals, in evolutionary biology and the processes of speciation. In my PhD thesis I investigate whether different populations of the parasitic Large Blue Butterflies Maculinea nausithous and M. teleius can be identified as cryptic species. The highly endangered populations of both species are small and fragmented; individuals have a high spatial fidelity and long distance migrations are rare. Consequently, the gene flow between populations is low and the evolution of reproductive isolating barriers (RIBs) is possible, leading to the possible evolution of new species. The probability of intraspecific divergence between populations at the species- and population-levels is enhanced because of the unique adaptation of the Maculinea-species on certain ant species of the genus Myrmica: the Maculinea larvae mimic the odour of the host species, parasitize the ant nests and predate the brood.

Within my study I examine the host-ant specificity and the parasite-host (i.e. butterfly-ant) compatibility among at least four Maculinea-populations along a Palaearctic transect. I will generate an intraspecific phylogeny by using DNA-barcoding. If populations are identified as cryptic species, this would have a high impact on the conservation of these particular species.

This project is supervised by PD Dr. Josef Settele (animal ecology) and Dr. Walter Durka (molecular ecology) and is funded by the Volkswagenstiftung.