Miguel Vences

Technische Universität Braunschweig, Brunswyck, Lower Saxony, Germany

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Publications (362)823.53 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: The rainforests of the Marojejy massif in northern Madagascar are a well-known hotspot of amphibian species diversity and endemism. In the present paper, we re-describe Rhombophryne serratopalpebrosa (Guibé 1975), a cophyline microhylid frog from high altitude on this massif, based on a re-examination of its holotype, and describe Rhombophryne vaventy sp. nov. using characters of external morphology and osteology, illustrated by pdf-embedded comparative 3D models of their skeletons. Rhombophryne serratopalpebrosa differs from R. vaventy sp. nov. by smaller size (28 mm snout-vent length vs. 52.9 mm), skin texture (granular vs. rough and tubercular skin respectively), supratympanic fold shape (strong, long and straight reaching the eye vs. curved and not extending anteriorly beyond the tympanum), relative tympanum diameter (78% vs. 41% of eye diameter), shape of the postchoanal prevomerine palate, shape of the footplate of the columella, length of prepollex, and by other subtle osteological features. Morphological comparisons suggest that a specimen from Ambolokopatrika assigned to R. serratopalpebrosa in previous genetic studies might belong to yet another undescribed species, closely related to R. vaventy sp. nov. , whereas DNA sequences of the topotypic R. serratopalpebrosa remain unknown. We therefore emphasise the need for collecting additional material from high altitudes of the Marojejy massif to understand the systematics, as well as the natural history, of this poorly known species. For the new species described herein, we propose a Red List threat status of Vulnerable, in line with other Marojejy endemics from a similar altitude.
    Zootaxa 09/2014; 3860(6):547-560. · 1.06 Impact Factor
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    Nature 08/2014; 512:253. · 38.60 Impact Factor
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    edited by Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften Leopoldina, 06/2014; Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina e.V. Nationale Akademie der Wissenschaften., ISBN: 978-3-8047-3281-0
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    ABSTRACT: A precise knowledge of the spatial distribution of taxa is essential for decision-making processes in land management and biodiversity conservation, both for present and under future global change scenarios. This is a key base for several scientific disciplines (e.g. macro-ecology, biogeography, evolutionary biology, spatial planning, or environmental impact assessment) that rely on species distribution maps. An atlas summarizing the distribution of European amphibians and reptiles with 50 × 50 km resolution maps based on ca. 85 000 grid records was published by the Societas Europaea Herpetologica (SEH) in 1997. Since then, more detailed species distribution maps covering large parts of Europe became available, while taxonomic progress has led to a plethora of taxonomic changes including new species descriptions. To account for these progresses, we compiled information from different data sources: published in books and websites, ongoing national atlases, personal data kindly provided to the SEH, the 1997 European Atlas, and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). Databases were homogenised, deleting all information except species names and coordinates, projected to the same coordinate system (WGS84) and transformed into a 50 × 50 km grid. The newly compiled database comprises more than 384 000 grid and locality records distributed across 40 countries. We calculated species richness maps as well as maps of Corrected Weighted Endemism and defined species distribution types (i.e. groups of species with similar distribution patterns) by hierarchical cluster analysis using Jaccard’s index as association measure. Our analysis serves as a preliminary step towards an interactive, dynamic and online distributed database system (NA2RE system) of the current spatial distribution of European amphibians and reptiles. The NA2RE system will serve as well to monitor potential temporal changes in their distributions. Grid maps of all species are made available along with this paper as a tool for decision-making and conservation-related studies and actions. We also identify taxonomic and geographic gaps of knowledge that need to be filled, and we highlight the need to add temporal and altitudinal data for all records, to allow tracking potential species distribution changes as well as detailed modelling of the impacts of land use and climate change on European amphibians and reptiles.
    Amphibia-Reptilia 03/2014; 35(1):1-31. · 0.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: In the context of DNA Barcoding, sequences of standard marker genes for thousands and potentially millions of indi-viduals and species are becoming available, requiring ever more efficient bioinformatic environments and software algorithms for analysis. We here present ExcaliBAR (Extraction, Calcula-tion, Barcoding), a user-friendly software utility to facilitate one important initial step in DNA barcoding analyses, namely the determination of the barcoding gap between pairwise genetic distances among and within species, based on original distance matrices computed by MEGA software. In addition, the software is able to rename sequences downloaded via the standard user interfaces of public databases such as GenBank, without the need of developing and applying specific scripts for this purpose.
    Contributions to zoology Bijdragen tot de dierkunde 02/2014; 83:79-83. · 2.45 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Macrolide lactones, the so called cucujolides derived from unsaturated fatty acids, are aggregation pheromones of cucujid grain beetles. Thirty years ago, Oehlschlarger et al. showed that (3Z,6Z)-dodeca-3,6-dien-11-olide (4) and the respective 12-olide (7) attract the sawtoothed grain beetle Oryzaephilus surinamensis, whereas (5Z,8Z,13R)-tetradeca-5,8-dien-13-olide (5) increases the response synergistically. The frass of this beetle is attractive for its parasitoid Cephalonomia tarsalis, which potentially can be used for pest control. A GC/MS analysis of attractive frass showed the presence of 5, together with an unknown isomer. Cucujolide V was tentatively identified also in the femoral glands, pheromone-releasing structures, of the Madagascan mantelline frog Spinomantis aglavei. Therefore, a new route to synthesize doubly unsaturated macrolides allowing the flexible attachment of the side chain was developed. A straightforward method to obtain Z configured macrolides involves ring-closing alkyne metathesis (RCAM) followed by Lindlar-catalyzed hydrogenation. This methodology was extended to homoconjugated diene macrolides by using RCAM after introduction of one Z configured double bond in the precursor by Wittig reaction. A tungsten benzylidyne complex was used as the catalyst in the RCAM reaction, which afforded the products in high yield at room temperature. With the synthetic material at hand, the unknown isomer was identified as the new natural product (5Z,8Z,12R)-tetradeca-5,8-dien-12-olide, cucujolide X (8). Furthermore, the route also allowed the synthesis of cucujolide V in good yield. The natural products were identified by the synthesis of enantiomerically pure or enriched material and gas chromatography on chiral phases. The new macrolide (R)-8 proved to be biologically active, attracting female O. surinamensis, but no males. The synthetic material allowed the identification of (R)-5 in both the beetle and the frog.
    Chemistry 02/2014; · 5.93 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Frogs of the subgenus Vatomantis Glaw and Vences, 2006 form a monophyletic group within the genus Gephyromantis Methuen, 1920 in the family Mantellidae, endemic to Madagascar and Mayotte. In anurans, vocalization is often a valuable character complex for taxonomical classification since it is an efficient premating isolation mechanism, and to add to the bioacoustic knowledge on Madagascar’s frogs we here provide a description of the advertisement calls of three sympatric species in the subgenus Vatomantis: Gephyromantis webbi (Grandison, 1953), G. rivicola (Vences, Glaw and Andreone, 1997) and G. silvanus (Vences, Glaw and Andreone, 1997). Calls of all three species were recorded the same day at the same temperature, in sympatry along a small stream in a forest fragment near Andranofotsy, allowing for a direct comparison. The call of G. webbi is the shortest, with long inter-call interval length. Overall, the calls of G. rivicola and G. silvanus show more similarities to one another than to that of G. webbi.
    Herpetology Notes 02/2014; 7:67-73.
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    ABSTRACT: The genus Salamandra represents a clade of six species of Palearctic salamanders of either contrasted black-yellow, or uniformly black coloration, known to contain steroidal alkaloid toxins in high concentrations in their skin secretions. This study reconstructs the phylogeny of the Salamandra genus based on DNA sequences of segments of 10 mitochondrial and 13 nuclear genes from 31 individual samples representing all Salamandra species and most of the commonly recognized subspecies. The concatenated analysis of the complete dataset produced a fully resolved tree with most nodes strongly supported, suggesting that a clade composed of the Alpine salamander (S. atra) and the Corsican fire salamander (S. corsica) is the sister taxon to a clade containing the remaining species, among which S. algira and S. salamandra are sister species. Separate analyses of mitochondrial and nuclear data partitions disagreed regarding basal nodes but concordantly recovered the S. atra/S. corsica as well as the S. salamandra/S. algira relationship. A species-tree analysis suggested almost simultaneous temporal splits between these pairs of species, which we hypothesize was caused by vicariance events after the Messinian salinity crisis (from late Miocene to early Pliocene). A survey of toxins with combined gas chromatography/mass spectroscopy confirmed the presence of samandarine and/or samandarone steroidal alkaloids in all species of Salamandra as well as in representatives of their sister group, Lyciasalamandra. Samandarone was also detected in lower concentrations in other salamandrids including Calotriton, Euproctus, Lissotriton, and Triturus, suggesting that the presence and possible biosynthesis of this alkaloid is plesiomorphic within the Salamandridae.
    Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 01/2014; · 4.07 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We provide a DNA barcoding survey of Malagasy amphibians, including 251 of the 292 nominal species known to date, by complementing previous data with 280 newly determined barcoding sequence fragments of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene. Amplification success for the newly determined sequences was highest (94%) with one set of universal COI primers (dgLCO1490-dgHCO2198) while other primer sets had distinctly lower success rates. By and large, we observed relatively high average interspecific genetic distances of 25-27% within the Mantellidae and Microhylidae, and genetic distances of 13-21% within the Hyperoliidae. Lower values of 6-7% were observed between some sister species in all families, with extreme lows of 0.2-0.3% between a few sister species pairs in microhylids and mantellids for which we postulate mitochondrial introgression or yet unsettled taxonomy. Within-species divergences were relatively high especially in mantellids where they averaged 5.3%, due to the inclusion of numerous deep conspecific lineages (by definition with high divergences to other specimens) in our study. Above this, the degree of polymorphism was difficult to establish owing to limited sampling per population in our assessment. Compared to a previous assessment from 2009 based on 16S rDNA sequences, we identify 14 additional undescribed candidate species and raise the maximum estimate of species in the island’s batrachofauna to well over 500.
    Amphibia-Reptilia 01/2014; · 0.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: BACKGROUND: An understanding of the conservation status of Madagascar's endemic reptile species is needed to underpin conservation planning and priority setting in this global biodiversity hotspot, and to complement existing information on the island's mammals, birds and amphibians. We report here on the first systematic assessment of the extinction risk of endemic and native non-marine Malagasy snakes, lizards, turtles and tortoises. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: Species range maps from The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species were analysed to determine patterns in the distribution of threatened reptile species. These data, in addition to information on threats, were used to identify priority areas and actions for conservation. Thirty-nine percent of the data-sufficient Malagasy reptiles in our analyses are threatened with extinction. Areas in the north, west and south-east were identified as having more threatened species than expected and are therefore conservation priorities. Habitat degradation caused by wood harvesting and non-timber crops was the most pervasive threat. The direct removal of reptiles for international trade and human consumption threatened relatively few species, but were the primary threats for tortoises. Nine threatened reptile species are endemic to recently created protected areas. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: With a few alarming exceptions, the threatened endemic reptiles of Madagascar occur within the national network of protected areas, including some taxa that are only found in new protected areas. Threats to these species, however, operate inside and outside protected area boundaries. This analysis has identified priority sites for reptile conservation and completes the conservation assessment of terrestrial vertebrates in Madagascar which will facilitate conservation planning, monitoring and wise-decision making. In sharp contrast with the amphibians, there is significant reptile diversity and regional endemism in the southern and western regions of Madagascar and this study highlights the importance of these arid regions to conserving the island's biodiversity.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(8):e100173. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Frogs of the family Mantellidae are endemic to Madagascar and the Comoran island of Mayotte. Like many other animals in this biogeographical region, they have passed through millions of years of isolated evolution which led to ecological, physiological and anatomical specialization. The present study compares the intranasal anatomy of a mantellid, the Malagasy Common Marsh Frog (Mantidactylus betsileanus Boulenger, 1882) with that of the Malaysian Green Flying Frog (Rhacophorus reinwardtii Schlegel, 1840), a representative of the sister group of mantellids (the family Rhacophoridae). Histological examination revealed that the structure of the nasal cavities of M. betsileanus strongly deviates from the usual nasal morphology of anurans. In the typical condition, to which also R. reinwardtii conforms, the two parts of the nasal cavity (main chamber and accessory chambers), containing two different chemosensory systems (main olfactory organ and vomeronasal organ respectively), are connected by a slit-like longitudinal opening. In M. betsileanus, this elongated opening is almost completely reduced. Therefore, main chamber and accessory nasal chambers are markedly separated anatomically, leading to an enhanced spatial segregation of the two different organs of smell. Whether these anatomical alterations correspond to a more significant role of vomeronasal perception and might be related to the presence of characteristic pheromone-producing femoral glands in mantellid frogs requires further study.
    Zoologischer Anzeiger - A Journal of Comparative Zoology 01/2014; · 1.40 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Trachylepis elegans and T. gravenhorstii are two of the most widespread reptiles in Madagascar, inhabiting a wide variety of habitats. Previous studies have indicated a considerable mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation within these species, but the geographic distribution of the major haplotype lineages is poorly known. Herein we analyse the phylogeography of these lizards based on 107 sequences of the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I gene, 101 of which newly determined. As in previous mtDNA assessments, T. elegans and T. gravenhorstii were not reciprocally monophyletic, although recent analyses including nuclear markers indicated their probable monophyly, respectively. The main lineages within T. gravenhorstii were found in strict allopatry and could be divided into a subclade of roughly northern and eastern distribution (lineages 1 and 2) and a subclade of roughly southern and western distribution (lineages 3, 4a, 4b, and 5, plus T. elegans). Our data serve to identify more precisely the probable contact zones among T. gravenhorstii lineages. The two main mtDNA clades (represented by lineages 2 and 3, respectively) can be expected to come into close contact in the area of the upper Mangoro river and Alaotra Lake, and (lineages 2 and 4a) in the Southern Central East between Mananjary and Ranomafana. Future studies intensively sampling these contact zones have the potential to assess hybridization and admixture among these lineages, and to test whether they are deep conspecific lineages of T. gravenhorstii as currently understood, or might represent distinct species.
    Zootaxa 01/2014; 3755(5):477-84. · 1.06 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Species distributed across vast continental areas and across major biomes provide unique model systems for studies of biotic diversification, yet also constitute daunting financial, logistic and political challenges for data collection across such regions. The tree frog Dendropsophus minutus (Anura: Hylidae) is a nominal species, continentally distributed in South America, that may represent a complex of multiple species, each with a more limited distribution. To understand the spatial pattern of molecular diversity throughout the range of this species complex, we obtained DNA sequence data from two mitochondrial genes, cytochrome oxidase I (COI) and the 16S rhibosomal gene (16S) for 407 samples of D. minutus and closely related species distributed across eleven countries, effectively comprising the entire range of the group. We performed phylogenetic and spatially explicit phylogeographic analyses to assess the genetic structure of lineages and infer ancestral areas. We found 43 statistically supported, deep mitochondrial lineages, several of which may represent currently unrecognized distinct species. One major clade, containing 25 divergent lineages, includes samples from the type locality of D. minutus. We defined that clade as the D. minutus complex. The remaining lineages together with the D. minutus complex constitute the D. minutus species group. Historical analyses support an Amazonian origin for the D. minutus species group with a subsequent dispersal to eastern Brazil where the D. minutus complex originated. According to our dataset, a total of eight mtDNA lineages have ranges .100,000 km2. One of them occupies an area of almost one million km2 encompassing multiple biomes. Our results, at a spatial scale and resolution unprecedented for a Neotropical vertebrate, confirm that widespread amphibian species occur in lowland South America, yet at the same time a large proportion of cryptic diversity still remains to be discovered.
    PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(9):e103958. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    Amphibia-Reptilia 01/2014; · 0.68 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: The Mantellidae is a species-rich family of neobatrachian frogs endemic to Madagascar and Mayotte. Although tadpoles have been described from many mantellids, detailed studies of their early embryonic development are rare. We provide a documentation of the developmental stages of Mantidactylus betsileanus, a common mantellid frog of Madagascar’s eastern rainforests, based on clutches deposited and raised in captivity. Metamorphosis was completed after 89 days on average. External gills were not recognizable in the embryos, similar to three other, previously studied mantellids, which apparently constitutes a difference to the mantellid sister group, the Rhacophoridae. We also provide updated descriptions of the species’ larval morphology at stage 25 and stage 36, respectively, from captive bred and wild-caught individuals, and report variations in the keratodont row formula from 0/2, 1/1, 1/3 to 1:1+1/3.
    Salamandra 12/2013; 49(4):186–200. · 1.00 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: We present morphological data of nine recently collected Xenotyphlops specimens from the coastal region east of Antsiranana in northern Madagascar, and compare them with data of the three hitherto known individuals of the family Xenotyphlopidae (the two type specimens of X. grandidieri and the holotype of X. mocquardi). We assign the newly collected material to X. grandidieri because of a lack of convincing and constant morphological differences from the types of this species. Our results indicate that the morphological variability of X. grandidieri is greater than formerly known. DNA sequences of the cytochrome b gene provide no indication of the occurrence of more than one species of Xenotyphlops in the Baie de Sakalava area despite the morphological variation found in specimens from this site. Due to the absence of clear diagnostic characters we propose to consider X. mocquardi a junior synonym of X. grandidieri resulting in a monotypic genus Xenotyphlops and a monotypic family Xenotyphlopidae. This conclusion is supported by the distribution ranges of both taxa, which are in close geographic proximity. To protect this unique relict species as well as other presumed endemics classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN we suggest establishing a littoral (coastal) nature reserve along the coast east and southeast of Antsiranana.
    Spixiana 12/2013; 36(2):269-282. · 0.61 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Day geckos of the Phelsuma lineata group are widespread in Madagascar and have been historically split into numerous species and subspecies based almost exclusively on differences in coloration and body size. We apply phylogenetic and phylogeographic methods to examine the biogeography and taxonomy of these lizards, including explicit tests of various biogeographic predictions and based on a molecular data set covering much of the distribution ranges of all species and subspecies of P. lineata, P. dorsivittata, P. comorensis, P. hoeschi, P. kely, and P. pusilla in Madagascar (and the Comoros archipelago for P. comorensis). Sequences of the mitochondrial 16S rRNA and the nuclear RAG-1 gene fragment were determined from 376 samples, and a multigene mtDNA phylogeny of the species group was constructed for the main phylogroups identified in the 16S haplotype network. We used the 16S sequences to estimate the geographic location of the ancestor of each major mtDNA clade and to infer their demographic history using a variety of statistical tools. Our phylogeny separates the taxa analyzed into two well-supported major subclades mainly occurring in the north respectively east of the island. Mismatch distribution of samples together with rejection of neutrality, the results of Bayesian Skyline Plots analysis, and a star-like network suggests a recent demographic expansion for the P. l. lineata lineage into the eastern lowlands, while the highland (P. l. elanthana) and northern clades (P. dorsivittata and P. l. punctulata) show signatures of rather stable populations. A major genetic discontinuity observed coincided with a northern lowland stretch that separates mid-altitude rainforests in the north from those in the center and south. Our analysis points to numerous unsolved taxonomic problems in this group of geckos, especially in the small-sized taxa (P. hoeschi, P. kely, P. pusilla), and provides a basis for a future comprehensive taxonomic revision, which will require integrative analysis of molecular, morphological and chromatic data as well as careful examination of type specimens.
    Organisms Diversity & Evolution 12/2013; · 3.37 Impact Factor

Publication Stats

4k Citations
823.53 Total Impact Points


  • 1988–2014
    • Technische Universität Braunschweig
      • Zoological Institute
      Brunswyck, Lower Saxony, Germany
  • 2013
    • University of Vienna
      • Department of Integrative Zoology
      Wien, Vienna, Austria
    • University of Porto
      • Departamento de Biologia
      Porto, Distrito do Porto, Portugal
    • Northern Illinois University
      DeKalb, Illinois, United States
    • Cardiff University
      Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom
    • Stellenbosch University
      Stellenbosch, Western Cape, South Africa
  • 2002–2013
    • Universität Konstanz
      • Department of Biology
      Konstanz, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
  • 2012
    • University of Queensland 
      • School of Biological Sciences
      Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
    • Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences
      Bruxelles, Brussels Capital Region, Belgium
    • Jagiellonian University
      Cracovia, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland
    • Universität Trier
      • Department of Biogeography
      Trier, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany
  • 1998–2012
    • Zoologische Staatssammlung München
      München, Bavaria, Germany
  • 2010–2011
    • Harvard University
      • Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology
      Cambridge, MA, United States
    • Uppsala University
      Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 2009–2011
    • San Diego State University
      • Department of Biology
      San Diego, CA, United States
    • Université de Perpignan
      Perpinyà, Languedoc-Roussillon, France
  • 2005–2011
    • Spanish National Research Council
      • Departamento de Biodiversidad y Biología Evolutiva
      Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • 2002–2009
    • University of Amsterdam
      • Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics
      Amsterdam, North Holland, Netherlands
  • 1996–2009
    • Research Museum Alexander Koenig
      Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
  • 2008
    • National Scientific and Technical Research Council
      Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires F.D., Argentina
    • Villanova University
      • Department of Biology
      Norristown, PA, United States
    • Bielefeld University
      Bielefeld, North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
    • National Institutes of Health
      • Laboratory of Bioorganic Chemistry (LBC)
      Bethesda, MD, United States
  • 2005–2008
    • Radboud University Nijmegen
      • • Department of Biomolecular Chemistry
      • • Department of Biochemistry
      Nijmegen, Provincie Gelderland, Netherlands
  • 2007
    • University of Kent
      • Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology
      Canterbury, ENG, United Kingdom
    • College of Wooster
      • Department of Biology
      Wooster, OH, United States
  • 2000–2007
    • University of Naples Federico II
      • Department of Biology
      Napoli, Campania, Italy
  • 2006
    • University of California, Berkeley
      • Museum of Vertebrate Zoology
      Berkeley, MO, United States
  • 2004
    • Universität Heidelberg
      • Institute of Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology (IPMB)
      Heidelberg, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany
  • 2003–2004
    • Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
      • Institute of Zoology
      Mainz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany
  • 2002–2004
    • University of Vigo
      • Department of Ecology and Animal Biology
      Vigo, Galicia, Spain
  • 2001–2003
    • Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle
      • Department of Systematics and Evolution
      Lutetia Parisorum, Île-de-France, France
    • Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle de Toulon et du Var
      Toulon-sur-Mer, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France