Evolutionary Biology

Our goal is to improve the conceptual integration of the different levels of complexity in explaining trait evolution and species diversification. We are pushing the boundaries of current evolutionary theory by examining the possible role of both genetic and non-genetic inheritance, the role of the environment as a phenotypic inductor via epigenetic regulation, and the possibility that such epigenetic changes may evolve under selection into accommodated genetic variation. We dig into the histories of species, populations and communities using both traditional genetics and new omics tools. By incorporating and consolidating novel molecular techniques we seek to test ecological hypotheses, study host-parasite interactions, and identify functional polymorphisms in candidate genes to account for ecologically and evolutionarily divergent life history traits.

To summarize, our aim is to consolidate the major topics that have long represented the pillars of our evolutionary ecology research line, such as large-scale patterns of adaptive evolution, co-evolutionary arms races between hosts and parasites, sexual selection and evolution of life histories. This necessarily requires the combination of experimental evolution and molecular analyses on a number of suitable systems (bumblebees, beetles, water fleas, plants, birds). We are moving from the study of a limited set of markers or candidate genes to whole-genome scans through transcriptomic, epigenomic and genomic techniques. As evolutionary ecologists, however, we need to apply laboratory-based proof-of-principle conclusions in the field to test how observed population responses or patterns across species conform to the various models of adaptive evolution.

Our specific objectives are:

- Describe genetic patterns in natural populations.

- Infer evolutionary and demographic processes affecting natural populations from contemporary, historical and ancestral genetic data.

- Assess the effects of the decline and fragmentation of populations on genomic variation

- Assess the relationship between genotype and phenotype under natural conditions.

- Test the epigenetic basis of ecological interactions

- Determine the effect of environmental fluctuations on gene expression and the phenotype, assessing the evolutionary consequences of such changes.

- Study the effects of inbreeding on fitness in natural and captive populations.

Researchers: Iván Gómez-Mestre, Elena Angulo, Xim Cerda, Ismael Galván, Francisco García, Laszlo Z Garamszegi, José Antonio Godoy, Elena Gçómez-Díaz, Carlos Ibáñez, Roger Jovani, Javier Juste, Jennifer A Leonard, Juan José Negro, Joaquin Ortego, Xavier Picó, Jaime Potti, Tomás Redondo, Miguel Tejedo, Carles Vilà