Ilia State University-University of Ghent 2013-2019

BA Studies: Physics; Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi State University; 2006 – 2010.

MA Studies: Ecology; Ilia State University; 2011 – 2013.

PhD Studies: Life Sciences/Biology; Joint doctorate between Ilia State University and Ghent University; 2013 – 2019.

Assistant researcher at the Institute of Ecology (Ilia State University), 2012 – 2014; 2016 – 2017.

Key personnel of the funded project at the Institute of Ecology (Ilia State University), 2016 – 2020.

Margarethe Koenig awardee/ post-doctoral position at the The Zoological Research Museum Alexander Koenig (Bonn, Germany); 2020 – present.

Caucasian rock lizards of the genus Darevskia are a diverse group of small lizards mainly living in the Greater and the Lesser Caucasus. It is difficult to delimit Darevskia species due to a high degree of morphological similarity and overlapping identification characters. Additionally, they also strongly hybridize and thus individuals with intermediate morphology and genetic characters are found. As a result, there are extreme difficulties in assigning found individuals to a distinct species. 

In the present project, we aimed to find the links between the phylogenetic relationships and morphological similarities in Darevskia, and apply genetic and morphological methods, or their combination, for delimiting the species boundaries. We mainly focus on the matrilineal phylogeny and geometric morphometric techniques (two-dimensional Fourier outline shape analysis and landmark-based three-dimensional analysis in comparison with ‘traditional’ morphometrics). More specifically we aim to reveal the morphological features which are species-specific and follow the species evolutionary divergence pattern.

Tarkhnishvili, D., Gavashelishvili, A., Murtskhvaladze, M., Gabelaia, M. and Tevzadze, G. 2014. Human paternal lineages, languages and environment in the Caucasus, Human Biology 86(2): 113- 130.

Tarkhnishvili, D., Gabelaia, M., Mumladze, L. and Murtskhvaladze, M. 2015. Mitochondrial phylogeny of the Darevskia saxicola complex: two highly deviant evolutionary lineages from the easternmost part of the range”. Herpetological Journal 26: 175 – 182.

Gabelaia, M., Tarkhnishvili, D. and Murtskhvaladze, M. 2015. Phylogeography and morphological variation in a narrowly distributed Caucasian rock lizard, Darevskia mixta. Amphibia-Reptilia 36: 45- 54.

Gabelaia, M., Adriaens, D. and Tarkhnishvili, D. 2017. Phylogenetic signals in scale shape in Caucasian rock lizards (Darevskia species). Zoologischer Anzeiger 268: 32–40.

Tarkhnishvili, D., Gabelaia, M., Kandaurov, A., Bukhnikashvili, A. and Iankoshvili, G. 2017. Isolated population of the Middle Eastern Phoenicolacerta laevis from the Georgian Black Sea Coast, and its genetic closeness to populations from southern Turkey. Zoology in the Middle East 63: 311-315.

Gabelaia, M., Tarkhnishvili, D. and Adriaens, D. 2018. Use of three-dimensional geometric morphometrics for the identification of closely related species of Caucasian rock lizards (Lacertidae: Darevskia). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 125(4): 709-717.

Tarkhnishvili, D., Gabelaia, M. and Adriaens, D. 2020. Phenotypic divergence, convergence and evolution of Caucasian rock lizards (Darevskia). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society.

6th International meeting on cranio-cervical systems in vertebrates, (Ghent, Belgium; 2015).

International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology (Washington DC, USA; 2016). Presentation title -“Interspecific and intersexual morphometric variation in Darevskia lizards based on anal scale shape”.

24th Zoology Symposium “Genotype-phenotype map: from model systems to ecosystems” (Wageningen, Netherlands; 2017). Presentation title – “Phylogenetic signal in 3D morphology of Caucasian rock lizards”.

Rufford Small Grants Conference “Conservation across the Caucasus” (Kazbegi, Georgia; 2018). Presentation title – “Conservation of endangered and endemic Vipera kaznakovi in Georgia”.

5th Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Symposium (Izmir, Turkey; 2018). Presentation title – “Use of 3 dimentional geometric morphometrics for identification of closely related species of Caucasian rock lizards (Darevskia)”.

Caucasus Mountain Forum 2019 (Ankara, Turkey; 2019). Presentation title: “Morphological boundaries among Caucasian rock lizard species (Genus Darevskia)”.

Individual research grant for PhD students financed by Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation:  Reveal body shape adaptations using 3D geometric morphometric methods in sympatric lizards across Western Caucasus (2016 – 2018).

Key personnel of the research grant financed by Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation: Consequences of secondary contacts: to what extent reinforcement and niche shift accelerate speciation in lizards? (2016-2020).

Project leader of the grant financed by the Rufford Foundation: Conservation of endangered and endemic Vipera kaznakovi in Georgia (2018 – 2019).

Key personnel of the research grant financed by Tubitak/ Shota Rustaveli National Science Foundation: Resolving reticulate speciation process in bisexual and parthenogenetic lizards of genus Darevskia in Eastern Anatolia and Caucasus (2018 – 2020).

The idea about the joint doctorate between Ilia State University and Ghent University was initiated during the Erasmus Mundus exchange study program in Ghent, Belgium. As a result the “Memorandum of Understanding governing the joint supervision and awarding of doctoral diplomas” has been established between the universities.  Based on this Memorandum I had a chance to carry out my research project and receive the doctoral degree in both universities. The joint doctorate is the great opportunity for students, as they can benefit from the expertise and infrastructure from both home and host universities and is highly beneficial for their future career.