Biodiv Sci ›› 2015, Vol. 23 ›› Issue (5): 559-569.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2015223

Special Issue: 物种形成与系统进化

• Review • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Unorthodox reflections on molecular ecology research in China

Dexing Zhang1,2   

  1. 1 Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101
    2 Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101
  • Received:2015-08-12 Accepted:2015-09-15 Online:2015-09-20 Published:2015-10-12
  • About author:# Co-first authors


Molecular ecology is an integrated scientific discipline that applies evolutionary theory to resolve various macroscopic biology questions. After approximately a half-century of development, it has become a well-established and active research field. It has not only penetrated numerous study areas of macroscopic biology, but also successfully bridged multiple disciplines such as ecology, physiology, geoscience and evolutionary biology. The research scope of molecular ecology ranges from developing the basic theories and methodologies, to uncovering and describing fundamental modes and patterns, to exploring processes and mechanisms, to excising research outcomes in practical applications such as conservation or pest control. The rising of molecular ecology has transformed macroscopic biology research, making it possible to leap into an epoch where systematical investigations on specific or general mechanisms are possible from joint genetic, ecological and evolutionary perspectives. Molecular ecology has already entered into the omic era, making many research dreams readily realisable. The omic era also brings challenges, of which the ones with the most profound influence on molecular ecology would be breakthroughs in basic evolutionary theories, such as theories of genetic variation, population differentiation, the evolutionary roles of epigenetic modification and variation, etc. Predictably, this will trigger an unprecedented revolution in biology, thus affecting undoubtedly all branches of ecology and even forging some new subdisciplines such as ecological epigenomics. For Chinese scientists, the opening of the omic era of molecular ecology has provided a rare and great opportunity for developing and establishing new methodologies, hypotheses and theories in macroscopic biology. Thus far, we have made no significant contributions. Nevertheless, theoretical, conceptual, and methodological research are the weakest areas of molecular ecology studies in China. Both research funding organizations and scientists should be clearly aware of the trends of research development and the challenges facing us; new funding management policies should be amended, and the proper research attitude and posture re-established.

Key words: ecological epigenomics, ecological genomics, evolutionary biology, epigenetic modification, phylogeography, population genetics, selection and adaptation, speciation