Laura Méndez


Research focus


My research focuses on the consequences of dispersal limitation of big-fruited palms in Madagascar due to the extinction of the megafauna. Madagascar harbors exceptional biodiversity, but this tropical biodiversity hotspot also faces an increasing threat from human activities and climate change. Plants with very large, ‘megafaunal’ fruits are common across the flora of Madagascar, especially within the palm (Arecaceae) family. However, Pleistocene extinctions of large-bodied ‘megafaunal’ fruit-eating and seed-dispersing animals (such as giant lemurs or elephant birds) may have hindered the dispersal of taxa with these ‘anachronistic’, megafaunal fruits. In this project, we aim to investigate the micro-evolutionary consequences of dispersal limitation of anachronistic palms on Madagascar, using a comparative framework. For this, fieldwork will be carried out and next-generation genomic techniques (e.g. RAD-Seq) will be applied to infer (historical) connectivity, demographic history, and phylogeographical patterns of anachronistic and small-fruited Malagasy palms. The results will allow us to evaluate whether anachronistic, megafaunal-fruited palms on Madagascar are facing extinction or may be adapting to dispersal by smaller-bodied frugivores still present today.

Scientific career


2018 - present

Doctoral researcher in Evolution and Adaptation (E&A Lab) research group, German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig, Leipzig, Germany

2016 - 2017

Master in Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, Pablo de Olavide University in collaboration with the Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC), Sevilla, Spain

Master Thesis: “Genetic structure and diversity of the Iberian populations of the freshwater blenny (Salaria fluviatilis) and its conservation implications” at the Natural History Museum of Madrid.


Bachelor’s degree in biology, Autonomous University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain

Bachelor Thesis: “How phytomining makes phytoremediation of heavy metals a profitable process”.



Zizka, A., Joerger-Hickfang, T., Imhof, S., Méndez, L.

(2022): LiDAR sensors in smartphones can enrich herbarium specimens with 3D models of habitat at high precision and little cost. TAXON

Méndez, L., Viana, D. S., Alzate, A., Kissling, W. D., Eiserhardt, W. L., Rozzi, R., Rakotoarinivo, M. and Onstein, R. E.

(2022): Megafrugivores as fading shadows of the past: extant frugivores and the abiotic environment as the most important determinants of the distribution of palms in Madagascar. Ecography

Méndez, L., A. Perdices, A. Machordom

(2019): Genetic structure and diversity of the Iberian populations of the freshwater blenny Salaria fluviatilis (Asso, 1801) and its conservation implications. Conservation Genetics
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Puschstraße 4
04103 Leipzig

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+49 341 9733263
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Universität Leipzig

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