Dr Hemp is part of an interdisciplinary cooperation program for the analysis of the biodiversity and evolution of faunal elements of East African mountains. A group of species rich insects (flightless Orthoptera) is used as model organisms to understand the present-day biogeography and high proportion of endemics of the region.
The study of distribution patterns of flightless Orthoptera species with narrow habitat demands allows us to understand mechanisms of mode and time of speciation and to reconstruct the effect of climatic history. Arrays of closely related stenoecious forest species adapted to montane habitats could have spread only in times with a vegetation cover differing from the current situation.
Adequate tool to investigate these questions is the study of habitat requirements of the single species, analysis of the composition of Orthoptera communities of montane habitats, behavioural studies such as sexual display, food choice and acoustical communication. The project presented herein includes the completion of the taxonomic inventory, the morphological comparison for phylogenetic analyses, and the study of ecological specialization and geographic distribution. Together with molecular, acoustical and vegetation analyses (projects of cooperation partners) a detailed picture of the influence of climatic history and vegetation change on the evolution of East African insect biodiversity will be obtained.