One major open issue in Evolutionary Biology is to understand how the past and current species diversity has appeared on Earth. Genetic differentiation between populations can cause reproductive isolation and ultimately lead to the generation of new species, i.e. speciation. We aim at testing the relative importance of genetic drift versus selection in shaping genetic differentiation between populations through evolutionary time.
We address this question testing different candidate adaptive traits in several biological systems:
- male sex pheromones in butterflies;
- life history traits in host-parasite interactions in rodents and nematodes
- Evolution of dispersal and of host specialization in spider mites
In collaboration with leading experts in their respective fields, we aim at testing our hypotheses integrating a diversity of approaches and tools, from behavioural ecology (estimation of reproductive success in semi-natural conditions), to chemical ecology (gas chromatography coupled to electroantennogram and mass spectrometry), molecular and comparative phylogenetics and phylogeography (methodologies for reconstructing the evolutionary relationships between populations and species), experimental evolution (artificial selection) and genetics (identification of candidate genes, quantitative PCR, transgenics).