Current and Past Mechanisms of Evolution
The goal of our group is to understand which mechanisms of evolution, both current and past, contribute to observed biodiversity. We also focus on the relative importance of these distinct mechanisms. In studying these topics, we employ multiple approaches combining behavioural ecology, ecology, population dynamics, population genetics, and biogeography.
Current and past evolution of animal populations
We are interested in investigating the evolutionary mechanisms that contribute to current genetic, morphologic, phenotypic, and behavioural variability. To this end, we integrate behavioural data, genetic data, morphometric measures, ecological niche data, and geological data. We are principally interested in the relative contribution of different types of evolution (e.g. ecological patterns, allopatric speciation) to observed variability. Our study organisms include the Spanish Sandracer (Psammodromus hispanicus), the Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara), and several bird species.
Lacerta vivipara from Formigal Psammodromus hispanicus from Madrid
Natural population dynamics
Population dynamics are of fundamental importance in biodiversity and conservation. Each year we survey five natural Common Lizard (Lacerta vivipara) populations located in the Pyrenees. These data allow us to understand how different factors correlate with the observed population dynamics and to calibrate population experiments accordingly.
Experimental population dynamics
Experimental semi-natural lizard populations built at our research station in the Pyrenees (Jaca, Spain). From left to right, Miguel Peñalver Alcázar, Luis Martín San José García, Patrick S. Fitze
Sexual selection and sexual conflict
Evolution of animal coloration
Concurrently, a related line of research is devoted to analysis of the colourful ventral coloration of the common lizard Lacerta vivipara. Its ventral coloration ranges from white to orange in the Pyrenees and from yellow to dark orange in the Cévennes (France). Our studies aim to identify the determinant mechanisms underlying these patterns of coloration and the associated implications for sexual selection and population dynamics.
Male colour variation a) in populations from the Cévennes, b) in the Pyrenees and Cantabrian mountains. Note, males from the Pyrenees show patchy coloration on a single scale, while this is not the case in the Cévennes.
|Lacertidae:||Common Lizard Lacerta vivipara|
|Spanish Sand Racer Psammodromus hispanicus species complex|
|Birds:||South and Central American Species,|
|Red Warbler Ergaticus ruber,|
|Great Tit Parus major|
|Insects:||Oil beetles Meloïdae|
|Red-striped Oil Beetle Berberomeloe majalis|
|Hen Flea Ceratophyllus gallinae|
We use a broad range of approaches including experimentation, long-term population studies, population sampling, loads of statistical analyses and sometimes theoretical modelling. Below you will find a short list of the most used techniques
|Colour analyses||Photospectrometric analyses|
|Digital imaging techniques|
|Carotenoid analyses by HPLC|
|Biogeographic analyses||GIS based analyses|
|Statistical analyses||Capture-Recapture Models|
and many more