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Fabian Staubach, PhD

 Fabian Staubach, PhD

Fabian Staubach, PhD

University of Freiburg
Biology I, Evolution & Ecology

Hauptstraße 1, Room 1038
D-79104 Freiburg

Phone. ++49/761/203-2911
E-Mail: fabian.staubach@biologie.uni-freiburg.de
Internet: www.staubachlab.org/



Research interests


bacterial community profiles of DrosophilaAdaption to the environment is a major driving force in evolution and shapes the traits and properties of all organisms. Therefore, understanding adaptation is crucial to understand why organisms are the way they are.
    For a better understanding of how adaptation shapes life on our planet it is essential to consider the role microbes play in the evolution of multicellular organisms. On the one hand, the strong selection pressures exerted by pathogenic microbes drive the evolution of host defense. On the other hand, microbes can also facilitate adaptation of the host to the environment. A prominent example are the wood digesting microbes in the termite gut that allow termites to live and thrive on wood.
    Although the ubiquitous importance of microbes in the evolution of higher organisms starts to be realized, we still know very little about it. This is why we are interested in studying the role of microbes in evolution and especially adaptation of multicellular organisms. We do this in two model systems


It is known that microbes influence quantitative traits like growth rate and cold tolerance in fruit flies. Obviously, these traits can be relevant for fly fitness. Because microbes impact fitness relevant traits, natural selection can act on fruit flies to preferentially associate with microbes that influence these traits in a way that is beneficial for them. On the other hand, there is evidence that microorganisms could also benefit from an association with fruit flies: fruit flies are highly mobile and can disperse microorganisms. Dispersal is highly relevant for microorganisms that colonize the same natural food source as fruit flies because rotting fruit can easily dry up or be consumed and hence become a dead end for less mobile microbes.
    We would like to find out (i) if there is selection on flies and microbes to associate and cooperate, (ii) what the benefits of such a cooperation are for the partners, (iii) and how these associations evolve at the molecular level. To answer these questions we combine genetic, genomic, and metagenomic approaches.


The association of termites with lignocellulose digesting protists is an important adaptation that allows termites to thrive on wood. This association has attracted interest for over a century and serves as a text book example of mutualistic symbiosis. However, very little is still known about how termites identify their symbionts and distinguish them from harmful microbes. This is especially interesting because the termite-microbe symbiosis represents a rare case of a symbiosis between a metazoan and a eukaryotic microorganism. While we have learned a lot about the molecular mechanisms underlying the recognition of prokaryotic symbionts by their hosts in recent years, very little is still known about signals and recognition in metazoan-eukaryote symbioses. We combine metagenomic, transcriptomic, and comparative genomic techniques as well as functional genetic analysis (e.g. RNAi)  to better understand the symbiont recognition mechanisms and their evolution. We collaborate with Judith Korb, a world leading expert in termite biology, for our termite projects.

Orange-Termiten Protisten

Drosophilids on rotting orange

large protists in the gut of Cryptotermes domesticus



Short CV

Degrees awarded

  • Dr. rer. Nat. in genetics, 05/2009, University of Cologne, supervisor: Diethard Tautz
  • Diploma in biology, 09/2005, University of Cologne, supervisor: Diethard Tautz


Educational background and positions

  • 2013-now  
    Assistant Professor, Biologie I, Albert-Ludwigs-University Freiburg
  • 2010-2013    
    Postdoctoral scholar in Dmitri Petrov's lab, Stanford University, Stanford CA, USA
  • 2009-2010  
    Postdoctoral scholar in John Baines' lab, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Ploen
  • 2007-2009    
    PhD student in Diethard Tautz's lab, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology, Ploen
  • 2006-2007    
    PhD student in Diethard Tautz's lab, University of Cologne
  • 2000-2005    
    Studies of Biology, University of Cologne



  • 2015-2018    
    DFG Einzelantrag on the role of microbes in termite adaptation
  • 2014        
    Start-up grant “Innovationsfonds” of the University of Freiburg
  • 2000-2012     
    DFG Forschungsstipendium
  • 2007-2009    
    Max Planck Society doctoral fellowship
  • 2004        
    Competitive Student award in Genetics, University of Cologne





  •  Staubach F, Baines JF, Künzel S, Bik EM, and DA Petrov. “Host Species and Environmental Effects on Bacterial Communities Associated with Drosophila in the Laboratory and in the Natural Environment.” PLoS ONE. 2013 8 (8): e70749. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0070749.
  • Fink C*, Staubach F*, Kuenzel S, Baines JF, and T Roeder. Non-Invasive Analysis of Microbiome Dynamics in the Fruit Fly Drosophila Melanogaster.” Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 2013 doi:10.1128/AEM.01903-13.  *equal contribution
  • Staubach F, Lorenc A, Messer PW, Kun Tang, Petrov DA, and D Tautz. Adaptive genome dynamics and introgression of haplotypes in natural populations of the house mouse (Mus musculus). PLoS Genetics. 2012 Aug 30; doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002891 Research Highlight in Nature Reviews Genetics 13, 675 (October 2012);  doi:10.1038/nrg3343
  • Staubach F, Künzel S, Baines AC, Yee A, McGee BM, Bäckhed F, Baines JF, and JM Johnsen. Expression of the blood group related glycosyltransferase B4galnt2 influences the intestinal microbiota in mice. International Society for Microbial Ecology Journal (ISMEJ). 2012 Jan 26; doi:10.1038/ismej.2011.204.
  • Staubach F, Teschke M, Voolstra CR, Wolf JBW, and D Tautz. Analysis of gene expression differences between natural populations of house mouse subspecies supports a predominantly neutral model of expression change. Evolution. 2010 Feb 1;64(2):549-60.
  • Heinen TJAJ*, Staubach F*, Häming D, and D Tautz. Emergence of a new gene from an intergenic region in the house mouse lineage. Current Biology. 2009 Sep 29;19(18):1527-31.
    *equal contribution, Faculty of 1000 recommended, Research Highlight in Nature Reviews Genetics 10, 742 (November 2009); doi:10.1038/nrg2694




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