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Ben Wielstra

Dr. B.M. (Ben) Wielstra Postdoc - Terrestrial Zoology

Introgressive hybridization and range dynamics in Triturus newts

Phone: +31610242379
Room Number: Sylvius buiding 6.4.16b
 In 2000-2007 I studied Biology at Leiden University, conducting several research projects at Naturalis Biodiversity Center. In 2007-2012 I conducted PhD research in a collaboration between the University of Twente (Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation - ITC) and Naturalis Biodiversity Center. In 2012-2013 I am conducting postdoctoral research at Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

Research interests

Me and Wieslaw Babik dipnetting for newts. Picture by Gonçalo Espregueira Themudo

Me and Wieslaw Babik dipnetting for newts. Picture by Gonçalo Espregueira Themudo

My main interest is the interaction among closely species, both ecologically and genetically, during the course of their evolution. This requires studying a model system with quite specific characteristics, which can be studied in a natural setting.

At Naturalis Biodiversity Center we found the prefect model: crested newts (Triturus cristatus superspecies). Crested newts have long been employed in evolutionary biology. The group is distributed in the Mediterranean region, an area characterized by a turbulent geological and climatological history. The crested newt superspecies is composed of several forms which are distinct enough to be deemed species, but similar enough to exclude one another ecologically. The ranges of crested newt species are largely parapatric and border each other along narrow contact zones. Here, genetic interaction between species occurs. The contact zones are dynamic, meaning they shift position over time. Taken together, crested newts are the perfect model system to address my research questions.

I started working with Triturus during my Master education. This resulted in the following Master thesis: 'The molecular systematics of the crested newt Triturus cristatus superspecies based on mtDNA sequence data'. I continued with Triturus while pursuing my PhD. My PhD aimed to bring together the fields of GIS and Genetics, in order to increase the detail in which biogeographical patterns can be analyzed. This resulted in the following PhD thesis: 'Tracing Triturus through time: Phylogeography and spatial ecology ' . During my Postdoctoral research I have started to employ genomics in order to obtain a massive increase in genetic resolution for Triturus.

Triturus is a perfect model system in evolutionary studies and will continue to teach us about subjects such as speciation, niche evolution, competition and gene flow. 

Triturus cristatus superspecies

Triturus cristatus superspecies: your new favourite model organism. Upper panel: left a larva just hatched; right a larva close to metamorphosis. Lower panel: left a female; right a male in breeding costume. These sleepy newts were temporarily sedated and after non-invasisve tissue sampling they were released again. Pictures by me.

Click here for a page on the avifauna of the Sunda region


Naturalis Repository

Click here for a Google Scholar citation overview.

Vukov TD, Cvijanović M, Wielstra B, Kalezić ML (submitted) The roles of phylogeny and climate in shaping the variation in life-history traits observed in Triturus newts (Caudata, Salamandridae).

Arntzen JW, Wallis GP, Wielstra B (submitted) Spatial patterns of nuclear, mitochondrial and morphological transition in Triturus newts.

Wielstra B, Litvinchuk SN, Naumov B, Tzankov N, Arntzen JW (2013) A revised taxonomy of crested newts in the Triturus karelinii group (Amphibia: Caudata: Salamandridae), with the description of a new species. Zootaxa 3682: 441-453. 

Wielstra B, Crnobrnja-Isailovic J, Skidmore AK, Sotiropoulos K, Toxopeus AG, Tzankov N, Vukov T, Arntzen JW (2013) Tracing glacial refugia of Triturus newts based on mitochondrial DNA phylogeography and species distribution modeling. Frontiers in Zoology 10: 13.

Wielstra B, Baird AB, Arntzen JW (2013) A multimarker phylogeography of crested newts (Triturus cristatus superspecies) reveals cryptic species. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 67: 167-175.

Zieliński P, Nadachowska-Brzyska K, Wielstra B, Szkotak R, Covaciu-Marcov S, Cogălniceanu D, Babik W (2013) No evidence for nuclear introgression despite complete mtDNA replacement in the Carpathian newt (Lissotriton montandoni). Molecular Ecology 22: 1884-1903. 

Ivanović A, Üzüm N, Wielstra B, Olgun K, Litvinchuk SN, Kalezić ML, Arntzen JW (2013) Is mitochondrial DNA divergence of Near Eastern crested newts (Triturus karelinii group) reflected by differentiation of skull shape? Zoologischer Anzeiger 252: 269-277. 

Wielstra B, Beukema W, Arntzen JW, Skidmore AK, Toxopeus AG, Raes N (2012) Corresponding mitochondrial DNA and niche divergence for crested newt candidate species. PLoS ONE 7: e47771.

Wielstra B, Arntzen JW (2012) Postglacial species displacement in Triturus newts deduced from asymmetrically introgressed mitochondrial DNA and ecological niche models. BMC Evolutionary Biology12: 161. 

Wielstra B, Boorsma T, Pieterse SM (2012). An update on the avifauna of Gunung Lumut Protection Forest (East Kalimantan) reinforcing the potential conservation value of hutan adat. Kukila 16: 1-15.

Wielstra B, Arntzen JW (2011) Unraveling the rapid radiation of crested newts (Triturus cristatussuperspecies) using complete mitogenomic sequences. BMC Evolutionary Biology 11: 162. 

Wielstra B, Boorsma T, Pieterse SM, de Iongh HH (2011) The use of avian feeding guilds to detect small-scale forest disturbance: a case study in East Kalimantan, Borneo. Forktail 27: 55-62. 

Vukov TD, Sotiropoulos K, Wielstra B, Džukić G, Kalezić ML (2011) The evolution of the adult body form of the crested newt (Triturus cristatus superspecies, Caudata, Salamandridae). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 49: 324-334. 

Wielstra B, Espregueira Themudo G, Güclü Ö, Olgun K, Poyarkov NA, Arntzen JW (2010) Cryptic crested newt diversity at the Eurasian transition: the mitochondrial DNA phylogeography of Near Eastern Triturus newts. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 56: 888-896. 

Arntzen JW, Wielstra B (2010) Where to draw the line? A nuclear genetic perspective on proposed range boundaries of the crested newts Triturus karelinii and T. arntzeni. Amphibia-Reptilia 31: 311-322. 

Wielstra B, Pieterse S (2009) A bird survey of Gunung Lumut Protection Forest, East Kalimantan and a recommendation for its designation as an Important Bird Area. Kukila 14: 1-15. 

Espregueira Themudo G, Wielstra B, Arntzen JW (2009) Multiple nuclear and mitochondrial genes resolve the branching order of a rapid radiation of crested newts (Triturus, Salamandridae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 52: 321-328.  [Erratum in Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution53: 359. ]

Arntzen JW, Espregueira Themudo G, Wielstra B (2007) The phylogeny of crested newts (Triturus cristatus superspecies): nuclear and mitochondrial genetic characters suggest a hard polytomy, in line with the paleogeography of the centre of origin. Contributions to Zoology 76:261-278. 

Please contact the author when you are interested in one of the articles below and it is not available online or in the repository [Repository].