Q1 - How do species adapt to (strikingly) different environments?

Picture a species that has adapted to a desert. Now imagine that the ‘ ancestral state ‘, i.e. environment from which the species adapted from, was the either the arctic (remarkably distinct than the desert) or a drylands (not so different). What genomic and phenotypic changes would a remakably distinct environment vs a not-so-different environment require?

To answer this question, I focus on island adaptive radiations (an adaptive radiation is “ a process in which organisms diversify rapidly from an ancestral species into a multitude of new forms, particularly when a change in the environment makes new resources available, alters biotic interactions or opens new environmental niches “; definition from Wikipedia). On islands we observe closely related species withstanding very different environmental conditions.

Biological systems:

Scalesia (Galápagos)

The Scalesia lineage comprises >15 species distribured over coastal-arid, humid-highlands in the Galápagos. I’ve been obtaining reference genomes, comparing genomes, transposable elements, genes, transcriptome-networks. Main collaborators: Gonzalo Rivas-Torres, Juan Guevara, Maria de Lourdes Torres, Hugo Valdebenito Milling, Patricia Jaramillo

Q2 - How do species repeatedly adapt to the same environments?

Imagine a group of species that has adapted three times independently to a desert. Did they use the same genes? Did they evolve the same phenotypes?

I answer this question by focusing on instances of parallel/convergent/repeated phenotypic evolution in adaptive radiations.

Biological systems

Tetragnatha Population genomics (Hawai’i)

I am working on the repeated basis of phenotypic evolution (parallel/convergent evolution) of the Hawaiian Tetragnatha adaptive radiation where four ecomorphs have repeatedly evolved (green, which sits on leaves; maroon, which is moss-dwelling; small brown, living in twigs and branches; and large brown, living on tree bark). Main collaborators: Rosemary Gillespie, Darko Cotoras

Q3 - How do species evolve on islands?

Species on islands just look remarkably distinct from continental species (coconut crab, dodo, daisy-trees). The island syndrome “describes the differences in morphology, ecology, physiology and behaviour of insular species compared to their continental counterparts” (wikipedia). To answer this question I study phenotypic and genome evolution in island taxa.

Biological systems:

Galápagos Prickly pears Population genomics

We’re studying the evolutionary history of Galápagos cacti. Closely related populations are phenotypically trees (12 meters tall) or very small shrubs. The prickly pears just have so much variation in terms of diversity, variation, and we’re only starting. Main collaborators: Felipe Zapata, John McCormack, Jaime Chaves, Gonzalo Rivas-Torres

Q4 - What is the role of ecology in evolution?

There is an increasing interest of the role of ecology in speciation (ecological speciation) and adaptation (adaptive radiation). However, some really fascinating biological groups have evolved without ecological differences. How? Why?

Biological systems:

Galápagos lava lizards

Collaboration starting with Juan Manuel Guayasamin (and others) - still getting off the ground - where we are exploring non-adaptive radiations. Main collaborators: Juan Manuel Guayasamin.

Q5 - How are humans influencing the evolution of biodiversity?

Humans have a pervasive impact on biodiversity. I am interested in understanding how species can evolve to cope with human activities and within the context of human environments.

Biological systems:

Cape verde endemic sparrows

Together with Dr. Mark Ravinet at Nottingham, we are working on the adaptation to human and wild conditions in the Cape Verde endemic sparrow species.

Norwegian Reindeer

I’m sequencing the genomes of feral, domestic and wild reindeers. Main collaborator: Atle Mysterud.

Q7 - How do genomes evolve?

I work on comparative genomics of various taxa: by comparing genomes I try understand how genes, transposable elements and other genomic features are distributed throughtout the genome and how they influence the evolution of species.

Past Research

Cryptic species

Cryptic species are morphologically similar species. I did my PhD with Torsten H. Struck in Oslo, where we investigated the lineage history of species which have been morphologically identical for >100 million years! It is a pretty cool topic, and you can see our lengthy review here, as well as where we describe some new species, and where we suggest a pattern of deceleration of morphological evolution!


My approach to research consists in mobility and collaboration, benefiting from the direct expertise of leaders in different research fields, thus increasing the quality of my work and publications. This approach is highly cooperative, and is grounded on two ideas: “two brains think better than one” and “if you have worked in a topic for longer than I, it’s likely that you have something to say about my ideas, result or approach”. My work would thus not be possible without the knowledge, support, kindness and patience of multiple individuals. Here are some people who are collaborators of mine (alphabetically by first name):