Philipp Schlüter

Philipp Schlüter, Dr.


Tel.: +41 (0)44 634 83 28


2003-2006Graduate studies in Plant Sciences, University of Vienna
1998-2002Undergraduate studies in Biochemistry, University of Oxford

Previous Positions & Research Experience

2007-2012Postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Dr. Florian Schiestl laboratory. Group leader since 2010. Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Zurich, Switzerland.
2006-2009Postdoctoral researcher in Prof. Dr. Ueli Grossniklaus laboratory Institute of Plant Biology, University of Zurich, Switzerland.
2006-2007Postdoctoral researcher in Dr. Florian Schiestl laboratory Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland.

Research Interests

There are various ways by which novel species can evolve. For instance, divergent selection by the environment can result in the establishment of reproductive isolation and, thereafter, the divergence of lineages. The likelihood of such divergence by ecological speciation is influenced by the complexity and genetic architecture of traits under divergent selection. In particular, a simple genetic basis of divergent traits is expected to facilitate speciation.

I am primarily interested in ecological speciation processes and the molecular basis of adaptive traits under divergent selection that contribute to reproductive isolation among lineages. Sexually deceptive orchids – such as the Mediterranean orchid genus Ophrys – provide an excellent study system for addressing these questions. Flowers of these orchids are not attractive to the majority of typical pollinators, because they neither offer nectar nor any other food reward. However, they specifically mimic the key (species-specific) sexual signals of pollinator females and can thereby attract male pollinators with very high specificity, such that one orchid species is typically only attractive to one (or very few) pollinator species. This reduced complexity of plant-pollinator interaction makes this system an appealing study system for ecological speciation, because different pollinators exert divergent selection on flowers and the signals necessary for pollinator attraction, leading to the swift establishment of strong reproductive isolation.

The key to the specificity of pollinator attraction by these orchids lies in their chemical mimicry of the pollinator female’s sex pheromone. My current research therefore focuses on the molecular basis of orchid traits involved in highly specific pollinator attraction, such as the biochemistry and population genetics of genes involved in the biosynthesis of pseudo-pheromones, also taking advantage of new technologies that enable genome-wide molecular analyses on the level of gene sequence and expression. On the other hand, I am also interested in the phenotypic effects of evolutionarily interesting candidate genes in the field, and how phenotypic selection acts on them. Integrating the use of genetic, genomic and biochemical tools with ecological field experiments, I work towards the identification and understanding of the functional genetic changes that are involved in reproductive isolation and speciation.

Master projects

Mechanisms of adaptation and ecological speciation

I offer Master thesis topics in the following areas: the genetic and ecological basis of speciation, adaptation and pollinator attraction; the molecular biology and evolution of genes involved in phenotypic traits and adaptation; ecological population genetics, genomics and transcriptomics, especially of species divergence; orchid pollination biology, especially sexually deceptive orchids (Ophrys). If you are interested in a Master’s project in these areas, please contact me for further information.

Research Software

FAMD - Fingerprint Analysis with Missing Data (Schlüter & Harris 2006). A program for the analysis of multilocus dominant genetic markers (e.g., AFLP, RAPD, ISSR). FAMD can be found here.


Full publication list: Google Scholar.

Breitkopf H, Onstein RE, Cafasso D, Schlüter PM & Cozzolino S. In press. Multiple shifts to different pollinators fuelled rapid diversification in sexually deceptive Ophrys orchids – New Phytol. doi: 10.1111/nph.13219. (Link)
Xu S & Schlüter PM. In press. Modeling the two-locus architecture of divergent pollinator adaptation: how variation in SAD paralogues affects fitness and evolutionary divergence in sexually deceptive orchids. Ecol. Evol. doi: 10.1002/ece3.1378. (Link)
Sun M, Schlüter PM, Gross K & Schiestl FP. In press. Floral isolation is the major reproductive barrier between a pair of rewarding orchid sister species. – J. Evol. Biol. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12544. (Link)
Sedeek KEM, Scopece G, Staedler YM, Schönenberger J, Cozzolino S, Schiestl FP & Schlüter PM. 2014. Genic rather than genome-wide differences between sexually deceptive Ophrys orchids with different pollinators. – Mol. Ecol. 23: 6192-6205. (Link)
Sedeek KEM, Qi W, Schauer MA, Gupta AK, Poveda L, Xu S, Liu Z-J, Grossniklaus U, Schiestl FP & Schlüter PM. 2013. Transcriptome and proteome data reveal candidate genes for pollinator attraction in sexually deceptive orchids. – PLoS One 8: e64621. (Link)
Breitkopf H, Schlüter PM, Xu S, Schiestl FP, Cozzolino S & Scopece G. 2013. Pollinator shifts between Ophrys sphegodes populations: might adaptation to different pollinators drive population divergence? – J. Evol. Biol. 26: 2197-2208. (Link)
Xu S, Schlüter PM, Grossniklaus U & Schiestl FP. 2012. The genetic basis of pollinator adaptation in a sexually deceptive orchid – PLoS Genet. 8: e1002889. (Link)
Xu S, Schlüter PM, Schiestl FP. 2012. Pollinator-driven speciation in sexually deceptive orchids. Int. J. Ecol. 2012: Article ID 285081. (Link)
Schlüter PM, Ruas PM, Kohl G, Ruas CF, Stuessy TF, Paulus HF. (2011) Evidence for progenitor–derivative speciation in sexually deceptive orchids. Ann. Bot. 108:895-906. (Link)
Schlüter PM, Xu S, Gagliardini V, Whittle EJ, Shanklin J, Grossniklaus U, Schiestl FP. (2011) Stearoyl-acyl carrier protein desaturases are associated with floral isolation in sexually deceptive orchids. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 108:5696-5701. (Link)
Xu S, Schlüter PM, Scopece G, Breitkopf H, Gross K, Cozzolino S, Schiestl FP. (2011) Floral isolation is the main reproductive barrier among closely related sexually deceptive orchids. Evolution 65:2606-2620. (Link)
Schauer SE, Schlüter PM, Baskar R, Gheyselinck J, Bolaños A, Curtis MD, Grossniklaus U. (2009) Intronic regulatory elements determine the divergent expression patterns of AGAMOUS-LIKE6 subfamily members in Arabidopsis. Plant J. 59:987-1000 (Medline)
Schiestl FP, Schlüter PM. (2009) Floral isolation, specialized pollination, and pollinator behavior in orchids. Annu. Rev. Entomol. 54:425-446. (Medline)
Schlüter PM, Ruas PM, Kohl G, Ruas CF, Stuessy TF, Paulus HF. (2009) Genetic patterns and pollination in Ophrys iricolor and O. mesaritica (Orchidaceae): sympatric evolution by pollinator shift. Bot. J. Linn. Soc. 159:583-598 (Link)
Stökl J, Schlüter PM, Stuessy TF, Paulus HF, Fraberger R, Erdmann D, Schulz C, Francke W, Assum G, Ayasse M. (2009) Speciation in sexually deceptive orchids: pollinator-driven selection maintains discrete odour phenotypes in hybridizing species. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 98:439-451 (Link)
Ruas CF, Weiss-Schneeweiss H, Stuessy TF, Samuel MR, Pedrosa-Harand A, Tremetsberger K, Ruas PM, Schlüter PM, Ortiz Herrera MA, König C, Matzenbacher NI. (2008) Characterization, genomic organization and chromosomal distribution of Ty1-copia retrotransposons in species of Hypochaeris (Asteraceae). Gene 412:39-49 (Link)
Schlüter PM, Schiestl FP. (2008) Molecular mechanisms of floral mimicry in orchids. Trends Plant Sci. 13:228-235 (Medline)
Stökl J, Schlüter PM, Stuessy TF, Paulus HF, Assum G, Ayasse M. (2008) Scent variation and hybridization cause the displacement of sexually deceptive orchid species. Am. J. Bot. 95:472-481 (Link)
Schlüter PM, Kohl G, Stuessy TF, Paulus HF. (2007) A screen of low-copy nuclear genes reveals the LFY gene as phylogenetically informative in closely related species of orchids (Ophrys). Taxon 56:493-504 (Link)
Schlüter PM, Ruas PM, Kohl G, Ruas CF, Stuessy TF, Paulus HF. (2007) Reproductive isolation in the Aegean Ophrys omegaifera complex (Orchidaceae). Plant Syst. Evol. 267:105-119 (Link)
Schlüter PM, Soto Arenas MA, Harris SA. (2007) Genetic variation in Vanilla planifolia (Orchidaceae). Econ. Bot. 61:328-336
Pfosser MF, Jakubowsky G, Schlüter PM, Fer T, Kato H, Stuessy TF, Sun B-Y. (2006) Evolution of Dystaenia takesimana (Apiaceae), endemic to Ullung Island, Korea. Plant Syst. Evol. 256:159-170 (Link)
Schlüter PM, Harris SA. (2006) Analysis of multilocus fingerprinting data sets containing missing data. Mol. Ecol. Notes 6:569-572 (Link)
Stuessy TF, Jakubowsky G, Salguero Gómez R, Pfosser MF, Schlüter PM, Fer T, Sun B-Y, Kato H. (2006) Anagenetic evolution in island plants. J. Biogeogr. 33:1259-1265 (Link)
Schlüter PM, Stuessy TF, Paulus HF. (2005) Making the first step: Practical considerations for the isolation of low-copy nuclear sequence markers. Taxon 54:766-770 (Link)
Kramer EM, di Stilio VS, Schlüter PM. (2003) Complex patterns of gene duplication in the APETALA3 and PISTILLATA lineages of the Ranunculaceae. Int. J. Plant Sci.164:1-11 (Link)