Finalist of the category:
Outstanding Scientist in Slovakia Under the Age of 35

Daniel Jablonski

Zoology, evolutionary biology

Reptiles have played a fundamental role in the evolution of life, and by studying them we can better understand the contemporary world.

Mgr. Daniel Jablonski, PhD., works at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at Comenius University in Bratislava. He's a zoologist. He studies evolutionary and molecular biogeographical issues relating to the origin, distribution and conservation of species, and the genetic diversity of amphibians and reptiles.

Daniel Jablonski focuses on the molecular biogeography and phylogeography of amphibians and reptiles. Currently, he is researching in the Western Palearctic realm, in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

He studies species and genetic diversity and trends in the distribution of reptiles and amphibians in the past and present. He combines the results with his subjects’ morphology and ecology and tries to translate these into a taxonomy. There are also so-called cryptic evolutionary lines or species whose identification requires more than observation. They represent the hidden biological diversity of the world. "To recognize them, we first need to look at their genes," the scientist explains. "Only then will you begin to notice their morphology or other specific characteristics that potentially distinguish them from related species." He studies their scales, skull anatomy, reproductive organs and toxicity. Based on this variability and statistical analysis , it is possible to ascertain to what extent the compared species are identical or different, and what history they have had.

Daniel Jablonski says that he has always wondered how the world has developed and how it will look in the future. Reptiles and amphibians are great models for this purpose. "Reptile-like vertebrates colonized the terrestrial environment and thus changed the course of the world. One could say we're here because of them. We have a piece of them in us," he explains. It is also due to their ability to adapt well to the environment. From their current distribution and DNA, a lot can be learned about the conditions in which they formed. "They are quite plastic, current changes may also influence their appearance in the environment, and this development can take place relatively quickly. There are also slower genotype changes. They give us a better insight into history. In turn, based on mutations in DNA, we can estimate the time of divergence, i.e. when individual evolutionary lines began to split and write their own story."

Daniel Jablonski’s work fulfils him because it is an endless story in which he learns something new every day. "With basic zoological research, you never know where it will take you. I have been in a situation several times before when I knew something that no one else in the world had known. For example, we discovered a new evolutionary line emerging on Earth over millions of years. My greatest satisfaction is that I can devote myself to this work. Zoology is one of the core biological sciences, thanks to which we can learn much about ourselves." Daniel Jablonski graduated in systematic biology and zoology from the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Comenius University in Bratislava, where he currently works as an assistant professor and university teacher. He is a member of the Societas Europaea Herpetologica Taxonomic Committee.

When he is not studying science, Daniel Jablonski spends his time engaged in active pursuits. He likes to go kayaking, cycling and hiking with his son, during which he can observe amphibians and reptiles. He's also an avid photographer. He makes portraits of people and, of course, reptiles from the Balkans to Southeast Asia – his photographs have appeared in national and international books, magazines and websites. He enjoys travelling and getting to know new cultures, and likes old books, maps and Oriental carpets. He has been awarded several times for his work. In 2021, in a co-production with RTVS, he presented the natural science documentary Korytnačí rébus (Turtle Puzzles).