Plasticity and the Expanded Evolutionary Synthesis:
I am investigating whether the evolution of adaptive plasticity can change the course of evolution strongly enough to require an update of our theories.
I explain the project’s rationale in this blog post. So far, this project produced one paper showing how adaptive plasticity can evolve when it’s selected against.
We also published a rather philosophical paper on the reasons why phenotypic plasticity is so polarizing in evolutionary research. We argue that more traditional genetic arguments “simplify away” the role of plasticity to address important questions, and argue for a more explicit recognition of the idealizations at the base of different research programs.
Sexual Development without Sexual Chromosomes:
I compare gene expression in males and females, from embryo to adult in two organisms: The jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis and the water-flea Daphnia magna.
As a side product of this project, I’ve published the re-annotated version of the Nasonia genome, as well as a method to detect splicing variants without a reference transcriptome. I also contributed to the first description of mehtylation patterns in adult Nasonia wasps.
The contrasts between male and female wasps are published here. We show two main findings. First, early differences in sex-biased gene expression are few at the single-gene level, but become more prevalent when we consider networks of connected genes. Second, we show that sex-biased networks include younger genes in regulatory-like positions more often than other developmental networks.
Most of my work for this project is also documented in my PhD thesis.
Phenotypic plasticity and adaptation to new environments:
A collaboration with Nathalie Feiner to describe how wall lizard embryos (Podarcis muralis) use gene expression to deal with cold stress.
One of our papers investigates how Italian and French populations introduced to England have adapted to its cold winters, and asks whether there is a convergence in their gene expression patterns.
Another paper instead compares multiple native populations which are adapted or not adapted to cold environments. This allows us to identify shared transcriptional responses to cold stress.