Dr. Lukas Rüber

Dr. Lukas Rüber


Ichthyology & Herpetology

  • University Education and Degrees


    University of Zürich, Switzerland, Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences. Dissertation: “Molecular evolution and ecomorphological divergence in the endemic Tanganyikan cichlid tribe Eretmodini (Teleostei; Cichlidae)”.


    University of Zürich, Switzerland, Zoological Museum. Dissertation: “Phylogenetic and phylogeographic patterns in the endemic Tanganyikan cichlid tribe Eretmodini, inferred from mtDNA sequences”.

         Biology Diploma 1989-1994

        University of Zürich, Switzerland.


    Professional Positions

    Curator Ichthyology & Herpetology December 2011 –

    Department of Vertebrates, Naturhistorisches Museum der Burgergemeinde Bern, Bern, Switzerland.

    Researcher Ichthyology September2005 – November 2011

    Department of Zoology, The Natural History Museum, London, UK.

    Postdoctoral fellow 2000-2005

    Museo Nacional de Ciencias Naturales, Madrid, Spain. Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

    Research collaborator 1995

    Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, and the Zoological Institute of the University of Basel, Switzerland (5 months).

    Research collaborator 1992

    Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Brussels, and the Africa Museum, Tervuren, Belgium (2 months).

    Research assistant 1989

    Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, EAWAG, Department of Limnology (6 months).



Systematics, taxonomy, morphology, biogeography, phylogeography, phylogeny reconstruction, trait evolution, diverification, speciation, macroevolution.

My main research interest is in line with one of the central themes in evolutionary biology, namely understanding the processes that contribute to the origin and maintenance of biodiversity. The diversity of recent species is not equally distributed among taxonomic groups and across the globe - a small number of clades accounts for a large part of the world's diversity and a number of relatively small areas with high levels of endemism are populated by unusually large numbers of species. I study patterns and processes of diversification at different spatial and temporal scalesby focusing on fish adaptive radiations and biodiversity hotspots. My main research themes are (for more details see here):

1) Biodiversity of Southeast Asian freshwater fishes

2. Evolution of the gobies

3. Mechanisms of speciation in cichlids


Publications in peer-reviewed journals

Collins RA, Britz R, Rüber L (2015) Phylogenetic systematics of leaffishes (Teleostei: Polycentridae, Nandidae), Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, doi: 10.1111/jzs.12103

Ford AG, Dasmahapatra KK, Rüber L, Gharbi K, Cezard T, Day JJ (2015) High levels of interspecific gene flow in an endemic cichlid fish adaptive radiation from an extreme lake environment, Molecular Ecology, doi: 10.1111/mec.13247.

Conway KW, Britz R, Shrestha J, Manimekalan A, Rüber L (2015) Molecular systematics of the Asian torrent minnows (Ostariophysi: Psilorhynchidae) inferred from nuclear and mitochondrial DNA sequence data, Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, 53, 33-44.

Britz R, Conway KW & Rüber L ((2014) Miniatures, morphology and molecules: Paedocypris and its phylogenetic position (Teleostei, Cypriniformes), Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society, 172, 556-615.

Rocha LA, Aleixo A, Allen G, Almeda F, Baldwin CC, Barclay MVL, Bates JM, Bauer AM, Benzoni F, Berns CM, Berumen ML, Blackburn DC, Blum S, Bolaños F, Bowie RCK, Britz R, Brown RM, Cadena CD, Carpenter K, Ceríaco LM, Chakrabart P, Chaves G, Choat JH, Clements KD, Collette BB, Collins A, Coyne J, Cracraft J, Daniel T, de Carvalho MR, de Queiroz K, Di Dario F, Drewes R, Dumbacher JP, Engilis JrA, Erdmann MV, Eschmeyer W, Feldman CR, Fisher BL, Fjeldså J, Fritsch PW, Fuchs J, Getahun A, Gill A, Gomon M, Gosliner T, Graves GR, Griswold CE, Guralnick R, Hartel K, Helgen KM, Ho H, Iskandar DT, Iwamoto T, Jaafar Z,, James HF, Johnson D, Kavanaugh D, Knowlton N, Lacey E, Larson HK, Last P, Leis JM, Lessios H, Liebherr J, Lowman M, Mahler DL, Mamonekene V, Matsuura K, Mayer GC, Mays JrH, McCosker J, McDiarmid RW, McGuire J, Miller MJ, Mooi R, Mooi RD, Moritz C, Myers P, Nachman MW, Nussbaum RA,  Foighil DÓ, Parenti LR, Parham JF, Paul E, Paulay G, Pérez-Emán J, Pérez-Matus A, Poe S, Pogonoski J, Rabosky DL, Randall JE, Reimer JD, Robertson DR, Rödel M-O, Rodrigues MT, Roopnarine P, Rüber L, Ryan MJ, Sheldon F, Shinohara G, Short A, Simison WB, Smith-Vaniz WF, Springer VG, Stiassny M, Tello JG, Thompson CW, Trnski T, Tucker P, Valqui T, Vecchione M, Verheyen E, Wainwright PC, Wheeler TA, White WT, Will K, Williams JT, Williams G, Wilson EO, Winker K, Winterbottom R & Witt CC (2014) Specimen collection: An essential tool. Science, 344, 814-815.

Britz R,Rüber L & Johnson GD (2014) 
Reinventing the disc: a reminder to give credit to past giants, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281, 20132920.

Winkelmann K, Genner MJ, Takahashi T & Rüber L, 2014, Competition-driven speciation in a cichlid fish. Nature Communications, 5, 3412.

Polgar G, Zane L, Babbucci M, Barbisan F, Patarnello T, Rüber L & Papetti C (2014) Phylogeography and demographic history of two widespread Indo-Pacific mudskippers (Gobiidae: Periophthalmus). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 73, 161-176.

Agorreta A, San Mauro D, Schliewen U, Van Tassell JL, Kovacic M, Zardoya R & Rüber L (2013) Molecular phylogenetics of Gobioidei and phylogenetic placement of European gobies. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 69, 619–633.

De Bruyn M, Rüber L, Nylinder S, Stelbrink, B, Lovejoy NR, Lavoué S, Tan HH, Nugroho E, Wowor D, Ng PKL, Aziz MNS, von Rintelen T, Hall R & Carvalho GR (2013) Paleo-Drainage Basin Connectivity Predicts Evolutionary Relationships across Three Southeast Asian Biodiversity Hotspots. Systematic Biology, 62, 398-410.

Agorreta A & Rüber L (2012) A standardized reanalysis of molecular phylogenetic hypotheses of Gobioidei. Systematics and Biodiversity, 10, 375–390.

Brown KJ, Britz R, Bills R, Rüber L & Day JJ (2011). Pectoral fin loss in the Mastacembelidae: a new species from Lake Tanganyika. Journal of Zoology, 284, 286-293.

Brown KJ, Rüber L, Roger Bills R & Day JJ. (2010). Mastacembelid eels support Lake Tanganyika as an evolutionary hotspot of diversification. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 10: 188. (Highly accessed)

Takahashi T, Watanabe K, Munehara H, Rüber L & Hori M. (2009). Evidence for divergent natural selection of a Lake Tanganyika cichlid inferred from repeated radiations in body size. Molecular Ecology, 18, 3110-3119. See also Molecular Ecologyperspective article in the same issue by ME Arnegard entitled “Ecological divergence  in an emerging genomic model” discussing our research.

Britz R, Conway KW & Rüber L (2009). Spectacular morphological novelty in a miniature cyprinid fish, Danionella dracula n. sp. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B. 276, 2179-2186.

Albert EM, San Mauro D, García-París M,Rüber L & Zardoya R. (2009). Effect of taxon sampling on recovering the phylogeny of squamate reptiles based on complete mitochondrial genome and nuclear gene sequence data. Gene 441, 12-21.

Papetti C, Liò P, Rüber L, Patarnello T & Zardoya R. (2007). Antarctic fish mitochondrial genomes lack ND6 gene. Journal of Molecular Evolution, 65: 519-528.

Rüber L, Kottelat M, Tan HH, Ng PKL & Britz R (2007). Evolution of miniaturization and the phylogenetic position of Paedocypris, comprising the worlds smallest vertebrate. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 7: 38. (Highly accessed)

Rüber L, Britz R & Zardoya R (2006). Molecular phylogenetics and evolutionary diversification of labyrinth fishes (Perciformes: Anabantoidei). Systematic Biology, 55: 374-397.

Atarhouch A, Rüber L, Gonzales EG, Albert, EM, Rami, M, Dakkak A & Zardoya R (2006). Signature of an early genetic bottleneck in a population of Maroccan sardines (Sardina pilchardus). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 39, 373-383.

Cunha RL, Castilho R, Rüber L & Zardoya R (2006). Patterns of cladogenesis in the venomous marine gastropod genus Conus from the Cape Verde Islands. Systematic Biology, 54, 634-650.

Rüber L, & Zardoya R (2005). Speciation ‘bursts’ in marine fishes revisited. Evolution, 59, 1119-1127.

Rüber L, Kullander SO, Britz R & Zardoya R (2004). Molecular phylogeny of the Badidae (Teleostei: Percoidei) based on mitochondrial and nuclear DNA sequence data: biogeographic and taxonomic implications Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 32, 1010-1022.

Rüber L, Britz R, Tan HH, Ng PKL & Zardoya R (2004). Evolution of mouthbrooding and life-history correlates in the fighting fish genus Betta. Evolution, 58, 798—813.

Rüber L, Van Tassell JL & Zardoya R (2003). Rapid speciation and ecological divergence in the American seven-spined gobies (Gobiidae, Gobiosomatini) inferred from a molecular phylogeny. Evolution, 57, 1584-1598.

Taylor M, Rüber L, & Verheyen E (2001). Microsatellites reveal high levels of population substructuring in the species-poor eretmodine cichlid lineage from Lake Tanganyika. Proceedings of the Royal Society, Series B. 268, 803-808.

RüberL, Meyer A, Sturmbauer C & Verheyen E (2001). Population structure in two sympatric species of the Lake Tanganyika cichlid tribe Eretmodini: evidence for introgression. Molecular Ecology, 10, 1207-1225.

Rüber L& Adams DC (2001). Evolutionary convergence of body shape and trophic morphology in cichlids from Lake Tanganyika. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 14, 325-332.

Sturmbauer C, Baric S, Salzburger W, Rüber L & Verheyen E (2001). Lake level fluctuations synchronize genetic divergence of cichlid fishes in African lakes. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 18, 144-154.

Verheyen E & Rüber L (2000). Conservation of the endemic cichlids of Lake Tanganyika, implications from population-level studies based on mitochondrial DNA. Advances in Ecological Research, 31: 539-551.

Rüber L, Verheyen E & Meyer A (1999). Replicated evolution of trophic specializations in an endemic cichlid fish lineage from Lake Tanganyika. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 96, 10230-10235.

Huysseune A, Rüber L & Verheyen E (1999). A single tooth replacement pattern generates diversity in the dentition of the tribe Eretmodini endemic to Lake Tanganyika (Teleostei, Cichlidae). Belgian Journal of Zoology 129, pp 157-174.

Verheyen E, Rüber L, Snoeks J & Meyer A (1996). Mitochondrial phylogeography of rock-dwelling cichlid fishes reveals evolutionary influence of historical lake level fluctuations of Lake Tanganyika, Africa. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society London. 351, 797-805.

Snoeks J, Rüber L & Verheyen E (1994). The Tanganyika problem: comments on the taxonomy and distribution patterns of its cichlid fauna. Archiv für Hydrobiologie 44: 355-372.


Book chapters (peer-reviewed)

Gower D, Johnson KG, Richardson JE, Rosen BR, Rüber L, Williams ST (2012). Introduction. in Biotic Evolution and Environmental Change in Southeast Asia (eds Gower D, Johnson KG, Richardson JE, Rosen BR, Rüber L, Williams ST), pp xx-yy. Systematics Association Special Volume Series, Cambridge University Press.

Rüber L & Agorreta A (2011). Molecular systematics of gobioid fishes. in The Biology of Gobies (eds. RA Patzner, JL Van Tassell, Kovacic M & BG Kapoor), pp 23-50. Science Publishers Inc., Enfield, USA.

Rüber L(2009). Labyrinth fishes (Anabantoidei). in The Timetree of Life (eds. S. B. Hedges & S. Kumar), pp 344-347. Oxford University Press, New York, USA.

Rüber L, Verheyen E, Sturmbauer C & Meyer A (1998). Lake level fluctuations and speciation in a rock-dwelling cichlid tribe endemic to Lake Tanganyika. In: Evolution on Islands (ed. P Grant), pp 225-240. Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK.

Sturmbauer C, Verheyen E, Rüber L & Meyer A (1997). Phylogeographic patterns in populations of cichlid fishes from rocky habitats in Lake Tanganyika. In: Molecular Systematics of Fishes (eds. T Kocher & C Stepien), pp 93-107. Academic Press, San Diego, USA.


Edited Books (peer-reviewed)

Biotic Evolution and Environmental Change in Southeast Asia; eds Gower D, Johnson KG, Richardson JE, Rosen BR, Rüber L, Williams ST (2012). Systematics Association Special Volume Series, Cambridge University Press.


Articles in popular journals

Rüber L(2000). Evoluzione dei Cichlidi del lago Tanganica. Aquarium, 6, 18-25.

Rüber L(1998). Herkunft der Tanganjikasee-Cichliden. DATZ-Sonderheft Tanganjikasee, 36-39.

Rüber L(1998). Die Gattungsgruppe Eretmodini: Untersuchungen zur Stammesgeschichte. DATZ-Sonderheft Tanganjikasee, 36-39.

Rüber L(1991). Cichliden in der Wissenschaft. DCG-Info, 22, 162-164.

Rüber L(1990). Cichliden in der Wissenschaft. DCG-Info, 21, 259-260.

Rüber L(1990). Cichliden in der Wissenschaft. DCG-Info, 21, 94-96.



Selected media coverage

• Species of the day: Danionella dracula:


• Dracula is in top 10 species list:


• Dracula fish found in Burma:


• Dracula minnow has teeth, almost:


• Icefish lose their genes:


Miniature relations of world’s smallest fish revealed:


Unusual eggs reveal fishy relatives:


Keine Siesta für die Barsche: Laborjournal 2005(12): 30-31 by S. Dorn

Die Darwin-Finken des Meeres. Schweizerischer Nationalfonds - Horizonte, 2004(63): 20-21, by G. Klaus

L’arbre généalogique des poisons. Fonds National Suisse - Horizons, 2004(63): 20-21, by G. Klaus