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Sofia Gomes

I.F. (Sofia) Gomes, MSc., PhD candidate - Understanding Evolution


Email: sofia.fernandesgomes@naturalis.nl
Phone: +31 (0)71-751 9192
Room number: Vondellan 50, room 03.00.38


I graduated in Biology and did my MSc in Applied Microbiology at Lisbon University (FCUL) in Portugal. During my MSc thesis I learned morphological and molecular identification techniques of fungi. Afterwards, I strengthened my background in fungal taxonomy at IRCBio, Barcelona University in Spain where I worked on the morphological characterization of the fungi group Russulales, applying micromorphological techniques, such as optical and electron transmission microscopy. This period was part of a Leonardo Da Vinci Scholarship funded by the European Community. I started my PhD at Naturalis Biodiversity Center in 2014.


Research interest

My research interests focus on the interactions between mycorrhizal fungi and their host plants, in particular on the evolution of the mycorrhizal specialization of mycoheterotrophic plants. These special plants are achlorophyllous, so they don’t use light to grow and consequently they need to parasitize fungi to survive. This interaction is characterized by the rupture of the symbiotic association usually seen between green plants and mycorrhizal fungi.


mycoheterotrophic plants, evolution, parasitism, glomeromycota

Current research topics

The aim of my PhD project is to study the evolution of mycorrhizal specialization of mycoheterotrophic  flowering plants, more specifically the lineages in the angiosperm families Burmanniaceae, Thismiaceae, Triuridaceae and Petrosaviaceae. I will use next generation sequencing to study the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi community, associated with the roots of these plants and use phylogenetic reconstruction methods trying to detect common mycorrhizal specialization patterns in the evolution of mycoheterotrophy. 


Voyria aurantiaca (left) and Sciaphila albescens (right) from French Guiana.


Prof. Serguei Saavedra (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) 

Prof. Nicole Hynson (University of Hawaii, Manoa)


Supervision PhDs


Prof Peter van Bodegom (CML - Leiden University)


Dr. Nadia Soudzilovskaia (CML - Leiden University)

Dr. Vincent Merckx (Naturalis)



In 2016 I was Assistant in the MSc. course ‘Tropical Biodiversity’ at Leiden University (2 weeks) and Danau Girang Field Station, Sabah, Malaysia (2 weeks) organized by Prof. Menno Schilthuizen and Dr. Vincent Merckx.

2016: Daily supervisor of Janna Horjus in the project "Plant - fungus interactions of the Berkheide dune area".

Available student projects



Journals non-SCI, peer-reviewed

Siquier J.L., Salom J.C., Espinosa J., Esteve-Raventós F., Llistosella J., Gomes S. 2015.  Contribució al coneixement micòlogic de les Illes Baleares (Espanya)XXI. Revista Catalana de Micologia 36: 59-88.

Go to the website (URI)


Journals SCI, peer-reviewed

Carvalheiro L.G., Biesmeijer J.C., Benadi G., Fründ J., Stang M., Bartomeus I., C.N. Kaiser-Bunbury, Baude M., Gomes S.I.F., Merckx V., Baldock K.C.R., Bennett A.T.D., Boada R., Bommarco R., Cartar R., Chacoff N., Dänhardt J., Dicks L.V., Dormann C.F., Ekroos J., Henson K.S.E., Holzschuh A., Junker R.R., Lopezaraiza-Mikel M., Memmott J., Montero-Castaño A., Nelson I.L., Petanidou T., Power E.F., Rundlöf, Smith H.G., Stout J.C., Temitope K., Tscharntke T., Tscheulin T., Vilà M., Kunin W.E. 2014. The potential for indirect effects between co-flowering plants via shared pollinators depends on resource abundance, accessibility and relatedness. Ecology Letters 17: 1389-1399.

Go to website (URI)