Similar adaptations but different genomes
Led by Dr Philine Feulner, a team from Eawag - the Swiss Federal Institute of Aquatic Science and Technology, the University of Bern, and the Natural History Museum of Basel, examined 99 genomes of 22 whitefish species and confirmed earlier hypothesis that this diversity has arisen independently in each group of lakes since the last ice age, partly as a result of adaptation to different depths and food sources. Particularly, the edar gene played a key role, which influences the gill-raker count and thus the "sieve density" when it comes to catching insects or plankton. But there were also thousands of other genes that had an impact, most of which were only important in a single lake. It is noteworthy that very different whitefish species from the same lake are still genetically more similar than species which, at first glance, may appear to be similar, but which have developed in parallel elsewhere.
Many species found only here
Genetic exchange within, but also between the larger lakes has led to hybridisation. This has favoured the emergence of unusual species and thus the large variety of endemic whitefish species seen in the perialpine lakes, i.e. species that are unique to this region.
The "Wunderkammer" exhibition in the Natural History Museum of Bern provides insights into current collection activities, modern research methods, and unparalleled historical collections. There are over 15,000 specimen jars standing floor-to-ceiling on shelves. The collection contains 19,000 objects, including crocodiles, penguins, insects, and even a collection of eyes. One of the highlights is the fish collection of the researcher, teacher, and president of the fishing association Paul Steinmann (1885-1953). This collection was housed at Eawag for many years. Newly curated, it now serves as a valuable reference for researchers from all over the world. Since 2010, the “Projet Lac” collection has served as an additional, more recent resource.