Writing this dissertation would not have been possible without the smaller and bigger ways in which many people influenced my personal and intellectual development.
First of all, I want to thank my supervisor Johannes Müller (Berlin). Not only did he give me the opportunity to work on this project, he was also a great mentor and in collaboration with him I deepened my knowledge in various fields (ranging from molecular techniques over bioinformatics to amniote evolution), perfected my drawing techniques and skills pertaining to the writing of scientific manuscripts. I owe him thanks for extensive discussions, reviewing manuscripts and earlier versions of this thesis, as well as emotional support and encouragement. He was of great help whenever needed.
I also want to thank Belinda S.W. Chang (Toronto) for giving me the opportunity to work in her molecular lab in Toronto, where I was able to participate in discussions on vision research, bioinformatics, and molecular techniques. This is a stronger dissertation for these experiences.
I am thankful for the contributions of my collaborator Jingjing Du (Toronto). Her patience in sharing her vast knowledge of bioinformatics with me and, of course, her friendship have been invaluable.
I deeply thank Linda A. Tsuji (Seattle) not only for correcting English grammar, which immensely improved this thesis, but also for help with graphics and abstracts, and, most importantly, for her friendship, advice, patience, emotional support, after-work beers, delicious food, and lots of laughter – I could not have asked for a better person to share an office with. I thank you, my dear friend!
For help in the lab in Toronto, I first want to thank Ilke van Hazel who guided me through expression and cloning techniques and who brought joy and endurance to some long-night experiments. Furthermore, I thank James Morrow for helping with expressing visual pigments and concurrent fluorescence assays. Cameron Weadick helped with the rhodopsin 3D structure. I also want to express my thanks to all the other members of the Chang Lab (actual as well as former), namely Natalie Chan, Yayi Huang, Gloria Lin, Martin R. Smith, Kuan Rai Tan, Johnny Wu, MengShu Xu, Clement Yang, and David Yu.
I deeply appreciate the assistance received while working in the Berlin lab: Robert Schreiber helped during genome walking procedures and PCR, and Antje Sonntag as well as Martin Meixner performed sequence analysis and helped with cloning techniques.
Also, I owe thanks to Zhe-Xi Luo (Pittsburgh) for enriching discussions on early mammalian ecology and diversity, to Jason Head (Toronto) and Johannes Penner (Berlin) for help with statistics, to Dr. G. Crawshaw (Toronto) for kindly providing echidna blood samples, to Julia Hoffmann (Berlin) for help with formatting, to Jasmina Hugi (Zurich) for providing the photo of the echidna, to Florian Witzmann (Berlin) and Sven Weidemeyer (Berlin) for reviewing earlier versions of this thesis, and to Jörg Fröbisch (Chicago) for help with synapsid phylogeny.
I thank the members of my examining committee, i.e. Belinda S.W. Chang (Toronto), Hannelore Hoch (Berlin), Wolfgang Kiessling (Berlin), Frieder Mayer (Berlin), and Johannes Müller (Berlin).
And I thank my friends and colleagues Nicolas E. Campione (Toronto), Olaf Dülfer (Bonn), David Evans (Toronto), Nadia and Jörg Fröbisch (Chicago), Julia Hoffmann (Berlin), Christian Kolb (Zürich), Dieter Korn (Berlin), Meike Mohneke (Berlin), Ragna Redelstorff (Dublin), Kristian Remes (Bonn), Nicolas Straube (München), Sven Weidemeyer (Berlin), and Florian Witzmann (Berlin) for help, discussion, advice, and support.
Last but not least, I thank my parents, my sister and her family, as well as my friends, in particular Juliane Edler (Toronto), who did a perfect job in encouraging me to sail through the last four years.
This work was funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG Mu 1760/2-3).
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