Our Research

Research in the Hiller lab revolves around a central question in genomics and evolutionary biology:

What is the genomic basis of phenotypic differences between species?

Our focus is explicitly on differences between species as opposed to differences within a species. We aim at discovering the genomic determinants of macroevolutionary trait differences, which is important to understand how nature’s spectacular phenotypic diversity has evolved. Our current focus is on studying the genomic basis of vertebrate traits that have potential applications in biomedicine or other fields.

To understand the molecular basis of biological diversity, we combine comparative genomics with genome sequencing and methods development. Our current research is interdisciplinary and includes

  • sequencing reference-quality genomes and transcriptomes of selected species with interesting traits,
  • developing new computational approaches to align genes and genomes, to annotate genes and infer orthologs, to accurately detect relevant evolutionary changes in functional genomic regions, and to discover associations between genotype and phenotype,
  • running large-scale comparative genomic screens using existing and newly-sequenced genomes and our powerful methods toolbox to reveal the genomic basis of phenotypic adaptations and link phenotypic to genomic differences.


Selected publications


We are hiring a Bioinformatician to join our ERC synergy BatProtect team. Funding available for 4 years.

Michael has been awarded an ERC Synergy grant ‘BatProtect‘ to uncover the molecular mechanisms behind longevity and disease resistance in bats with three other PIs.

Leon was awarded a well-funded DFG grant to investigate genome evolution and population collapse in eels. Congrats !!

04 / 2023
Huge congrats to Bogdan and the lab for the TOGA publication, now out in Science

02 / 2023
Superathlete vs. couch potato: Scientific American featured our hummingbird story together with Nick Rohner’s cavefish work.

01 / 2023
Katya’s work on FBP2 loss in ancestral hummingbirds and metabolic muscle adaptations for hovering flight is now published in Science.

10 / 2022
Great to see 2 graduated PhD students moving on. Ekaterina does a postdoc at Harvard. Bogdan is a scientist at Quantgene (genomic medicine). All the best!!

08 / 2022
Great to see Henrike’s paper on predicting novel eye genes based on evolutionary gene loss signatures out in Elife.

07 / 2022
Welcome to our new PhD student Yury Malovichko.

06 / 2022
Attending EuroEvoDevo in Naples with 3 talks by lab members.

05 / 2022
Huge congrats to Ekaterina Osipova, who did a great job defending her PhD.

04 / 2022
We welcome Bernhard Bein as a new PhD student in the lab.

04 / 2022
Welcome to our new Postdoc Shenglin Liu !!

03 / 2022
We contributed a high-quality gene annotation (BUSCO 99.4%) for the helmeted honeyeater.

03 / 2022
Our vampire bat gene loss paper is out in Science Advances. Some press

02 / 2022
Big congrats to Dimitris Kontopoulos for winning an EMBO Postdoc Fellowship.

01 / 2022
Juliana’s paper on convergent limb losses in reptiles is published in Cell Reports.

01 / 2022
Our assembly gap closing method DENTIST is published at GigaScience.

12 / 2021
LOEWE-TBG successfully got funding for the next 3 years !!

11 / 2021
Huge congrats to Bogdan Kirilenko, our TOGA master, for defending his PhD.

10 / 2021
Excellent blog on our preprint on gene losses
in vampire bats.

09 / 2021
Ekaterina Osipova gave a great talk @EMBOEvolAnimalGenomes on gene losses in hummingbirds and metabolic adaptation

08 / 2021
Welcome to our new Postdoc Leon Hilgers !!

05 / 2021
Lab move to TBG and Senckenberg in Frankfurt