Dr. Olivia Roth

Junior Research Group Leader

Parental Investment and Immune Dynamics

Research Division 3: Marine Ecology
Evolutionary Ecology of Marine Fishes

GEOMAR | Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel

Room: A 36
Phone: +49-431 600 4557
Fax: +49-431 600 4553
E-Mail: oroth(at)geomar.de

Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel (GEOMAR)
Düsternbrooker Weg 20
D-24105 Kiel

 born 15th of January 1983 in Switzerland


  • 06/2012 - present: Junior Group Leader at GEOMAR
  • 01/2015 - 11/2015: Maternity leave
  • 04/2009 - 05/2012: Postdoc at the Geomar with Thorsten Reusch
  • 05/2006 - 03/2009: PhD at the ETH Zurich (Switzerland) and the Westfälische Wilhelms Universität (Germany) with Paul Schmid-Hempel and Joachim Kurtz
  • 10/2004 - 04/2006: Master of Science in Animal Biology, University of Basel (Switzerland) with Dieter Ebert
  • 10/2001 - 09/2004: Bachelor of Science in Organismic Biology, University of Basel (Switzerland)


  • our research focuses on questions about coevolution of pregnancy with the immune system, host-microbe and host-parasite interactions,  sexual immune dimorphism and parental investment, phenotypic plasticity of immune defence, local adaptation and effect of environmental change on host immune defence and parasite virulence
  • to answer these questions we use the pipefish Syngnathus typhle as a host, and Vibrio bacteria and temperate phages as parasites
  • we aim to disentangle sex from parental investment by using the advantage of our sex-role reversed model system to test theories in the field of evolutionary biology from a different angle

  • we study coevolution of male pregnancy with the immune system using a comparative genomics approach within Syngnathiformes

  • we address the selection for transfer of immunity and microbes from both father and mothers to offspring and in the differences in immune efficiency between males and females

  • we expand dual host-parasite interactions to tri-partite host-parasite coevolution by focusing on pipefish, bacteria and their lysogenic bacteriophages with the aim to  evaluate the evolution from friendly to nasty in a tri-partite species interaction

Articles about our research


  1. Egger B, Rösti M, Böhne A, Roth O & Salzburger W. 2017. Demography and genome divergence of lake and stream populations of an East African cichlid fish. Molecular Ecology. Early online.
  2. Franke A, Clemmesen C, De Schryver P, Garcia-Gonzalez L, Miest JJ & Roth O. 2017. Immunostimulatory effects of dietary poly-β-hydroxybutyrate in European sea bass juveniles. Aquaculture Nutrition. Early online.
  3. Wendling CC, Piecyk A, Refardt D, Chibani C, Hertel R, Liesegang H, Bunk B & Roth O. 2017. Tripartite species interaction: eukaryotic hosts suffer more from phage susceptible than from phage resistant bacteria. BMC Evolutionary Biology 17: 98. DOI 10.1186/s12862-017-0930-2
  4. Poirier M, Listmann L & Roth O. 2017. Selection by higher-order effects of salinity and bacteria on early life-stages of Western Baltic spring-spawning herring. Evolutionary Applications, in press. DOI: 10.1111/eva.12477
  5. Roth O & Landis SH. 2017. Trans-generational plasticity in response to immune challenge is constrained by heat stress, Evolutionary Applications, early online. DOI: 10.1111/eva.12473
  6. Beemelmanns A & Roth O. 2017. Grandparental immune priming in the pipefish Syngnathus typhle. BMC Evolutionary Biology 17: 44. DOI: 10.1186/s12862-017-0885-3
  7. Theis A, Roth O, Cortesi F, Ronco F, Salzburger W & Egger B. 2017. Variation of anal fin egg-spots along an environmental gradient in a haplochromine cichlid fish. Evolution 71: 766-777. DOI:10.1111/evo.13166
  8. Beemelmanns A & Roth O. Bacteria-type specific biparental immune priming in the pipefish Syngnathus typhle. Ecology & Evolution 6: 6735 – 6767. DOI: 10.1002/ece3.2391
  9. Beemelmanns A & Roth O (2016). Biparental immune priming in the pipefish Syngnathus typhle. Zoology 119: 262 - 272. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.zool.2016.06.002
  10. Landis SH, Sundin J, Rosenqvist G, Poirier M, Oistensen Jorgensen G & Roth O (2015). Female pipefish can detect the immune status of their mates. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 12: 1917-1923. doi:10.1007/s00265015-2004-7
  11. Joop G, Roth O, Schmid-Hempel P & Kurtz J (2014). Balancing external and internal immune defences in an insect. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27: 1562-1571. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12406
  12.  Roth O, Sundin J, Berglund A, Rosenqvist G & Wegner KM (2014). Male mate choice relies on MHC class I in a sex-role reversed fish. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27: 929-938. doi. 10.1111/jeb.12365  
  13. Bolte S, Roth O, Philipp EER, Saphörster J, Rosenstiel P & Reusch TBH (2013). Specific immune priming in the invasive ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi. Biology Letters 9. doi: 10.1098/rsbi.2013.0864
  14. Diepeveen E, Roth O, Salzburger W (2013). Immune-related function of the HIVEP gene family in East African Cichlid Fishes. G3-Genes Genomes Genetics, 3: 2205-2217. doi: 10.1534/g3.113.008839/-/DC1
  15. Haase D*, Roth O*, Kalbe M, Schmiedeskamp G, Scharsack JP, Rosenstiel B & Reusch TBH (2013). Functional absence of MHC class II mediated immunity in pipefish Syngnathus typhle. Biology Letters 9. doi: 10.1098/rsbl.2013.0044 * authors contributed equally
  16. Roth O, Klein V, Beemelmanns A, Scharsack JP & Reusch TBH (2012). Male pregnancy and bi-parental immune priming. American Naturalist, 180: 802-814. doi: 10.1086/668081
  17. Birrer S, Reusch TBH & Roth O (2012). Lowered salinity under global change will impair pipefish immune defence. Fish & Shellfish Immunology, 33: 1238-1248. doi: dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.fsi.2012.08.028
  18.  Landis SH, Sundin J, Rosenqvist G & Roth O (2012). Behavioural adjustments of a pipefish to a bacterial Vibrio infection. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 66: 1399-1405. doi: 10.1007/s00265-012-1395-3
  19. Roth O, Keller I, Landis SH, Salzburger W & Reusch TBH (2012). Hosts are ahead in a marine host-parasite coevolutionary arms race: innate immune system adaptation in pipefish Syngnathus typhle against Vibrio phylotypes. Evolution, 66: 2528-2539. doi: 10.1111/j.1558-5646.2012.01614.x.
  20. Landis SH, Kalbe M, Reusch TBH & Roth O (2012). Consistent pattern of local adaptation during an experimental heat wave in a pipefish-trematode host-parasite system. Plos One, 7: e30658. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0030658
  21. Roth O, Scharsack, JP, Keller I & Reusch TBH (2011). Bateman´s principle and immunity in a sex-role reversed pipefish. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24 (7), 1410-1420. doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2011.02273.x
  22. Asshoff R & Roth O (2011). Fostering students´inquirey skills: Developmental time & offspring rates of flour beetles. The American Biology Teacher 73 (4), 232-237. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/abt.2011.73.4.9.
  23. Roth O, Kurtz J, Reusch TBH (2010). A summer heat wave decreases the immunocompetence of the mesograzer, Idotea baltica. Marine Biology 157 (7), 1605-1611. doi:10.1007/s00227-010-1433-5
  24. Roth O, Joop G, Eggert H, Hilbert J, Daniel J, Schmid-Hempel P & Kurtz J (2010). Paternally derived immune priming for offspring in the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum. Journal of Animal Ecology 79 (2), 403-410 . doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1157
  25. Roth O & Kurtz J (2009). Phagocytosis mediates specificity in the immune defence of an invertebrate, the woodlouse Porcellia scaber (Crustacea: Isopoda). Dev Comp Immunol 33 (11), 1151-1155. doi:10.1016/j.dci.2009.04.005
  26. Roth O, Sadd BM, Schmid-Hempel P & Kurtz J (2009). Strain-specific priming of resistance in the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum. Proc R Soc B-Biol Sci 276, 145-151. doi:10.1098/rspb.2008.1157
  27. Roth O & Kurtz J (2008). The stimulation of immune defence accelerates development in the red flour beetle (Tribolium castaneum). Journal of Evolutionary Biology 21 (6), 1703-1710. doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2008.01584.x
  28. Roth O, Ebert D, Vizoso DB, Bieger A & Lass S (2008). Male-biased sex-ratio distortion caused by Octosporea bayeri, a vertically and horizontally transmitted parasite of Daphnia magna. International Journal for Parasitology 38: 969-979. doi.10.1016/j.ijpara.2007.11.009