I have recently been awarded a Marie Slodowska-Curie fellowship (H2020-MSCA-IF-2020 proposal number 101028747) to work with Prof. Nadia Fröbisch at the Museum für Naturkunde, in Berlin (Germany).
SOON A NEW WEBPAGE ON THE ERC STARTING GRANT PROJECT STARTING ON SEPTEMBER 2022! STAY TUNED!
Metamorphosis as a driver of biodiversity? From a single genome to multiple phenomes
Metamorphosis is one of the most fascinating phenomena in the animal kingdom, implying an abrupt change in morphology and ecology during the lifetime of an individual transforming it from a larva into an adult. Metamorphosis can be thought of as a second birth for an animal, emerging as a completely different organism, despite being produced from the same genetic material.
Illustration of complex life cycles in insects (butterfly) and vertebrates (frog). In both examples, the egg hatches into a larva, before reaching a vulnerable stage during metamorphosis and finally transforming into an adult. Note that the change in morphology is associated with differences in diet and habitat use.
From butterflies to frogs, almost all the successful and speciose lineages of animals are metamorphic, suggesting that metamorphosis may be an important driver of biodiversity. At the time of the sixth mass extinction, where one-fifth of living species are threatened, understanding whether development can be a driver of morphological and functional diversity, and whether it may be advantageous in allowing populations to adapt rapidly to changing environments is of prime importance.
Genus-level phylogeny of vertebrates illustrating genera with indirect (i.e. metamorphosis) and direct developmental strategies. Phylogeny used for this figure is modified from Hedges et al. (2015), developmental strategies mapped on tree were obtained from the litterature (Jägersten 1972; Rieger 1994; Laudet 2011; Bardua et al. 2019; Bonett and Blair 2017; Sherratt et al. 2017; Liedtke et al. 2018). Pictures used to illustrate each clade are modified from (C) Joel Sartore.
The goal of META-MORPHOSIS is to test the impact of metamorphosis on morphological diversification by disentangling the factors (developmental, functional, and ecological) shaping morphological diversity. I aim to (1) identify the patterns of morphological and functional variation depending on developmental strategies across species throughout ontogeny; (2) shed light on the origin and evolution of metamorphosis using the fossil record; (3) understand how metamorphosis fosters diversity and to quantify its impact on the generation of biodiversity.
To do so, I will study salamander species with different developmental strategies and ecologies throughout ontogeny using a combination of state-of0the-art approaches, including phenomics (geometric morphometrics), analyses of function (feeding kinematics and forces), phylogenetic comparative methods, development, paleontology and methods exploring diversification.
A) Illustration of the diversity of life cycles associated with different ecologies. Single phase cycles in contrast to complex phase cycles. Light blue background illustrates aquatic phases whereas the yellow background illustrates terrestrial phases. B) Simplified phylogeny of salamanders composed of 10 families. Reconstruction of ancestral life cycle strategy is illustrated by the circles as indicated in the keys.
META-MORPHOSIS will produce an unprecedented data set and analyses of diversification considering for the first time how morpho-functional, developmental and ecological factors shape biodiversity through deep-time.
Collaborators: Dr C. Pérez Ben (MfN), Dr. H. Dutel (Bristol, UK), Dr A. Herrel (Paris, France), Prof A. Goswami (London, UK), Prof D. Blackburn (Gainesville, USA), Dr E. Stanley (Gainesville, USA), Dr M. Fabbri (Chicago, USA), non exhaustive list.