Current projects

Adaptive potential of lizards populations to warmer climate (20122 – ongoing)
This project is line with both experimental projects described below and a 30 year-long monitoring of natural populations of common lizards (Zootoca vivipara). In the Cevennes mountains, ~20 populations have been monitored for the last decades are now characterized for their altitude, climatic conditions and risk status of extinction. Our goal is to quantify phenotypic and genomic differences among populations as well as their ability to adapt to warmer climates. To do so, we running a common garden experiment with three different climatic conditions and monitor phenotypic and life history traits. Project ERC CoG ECOFEED and ANR AQUATHERM.

People involved: L. M. San Jose (contact), Theo Bodineau, Jean-François Le Galliard, J. Cote, L. Di Gesu, M. Richard, E. Darnet, S. Meylan, J. Clobert, E. Fromm

Ecological impacts of warmer climate (2015 – ongoing)
Because species adaptation should be studied in the light of their community, the project above has been coupled with a monitoring of invertebrate, plant and bacterial communities. Then, we can study different pathways for climate change to act on lizard population (e.g. diet change, vegetal cover and thermal niche, gut microbiota and digestion) and the consequences of changes in lizard population on community functioning. Project ERC CoG ECOFEED.

People involved: J. Cote (contact), L. Beaumelle, L. Zinger, E. Fromm, E. Bestion, F. Pellerin, L. Di Gesu

Adaptive phenotypic and genomic responses to warmer climates (2015 – ongoing)
The main goal is to study how common lizards can adapt to global warming, thanks to 10 year-long databases of phenotypic variation (behaviour, melanism and thermal preferences), life history traits (dispersal, survival, growth) and population dynamics on common lizards. This approach is complemented with a study of changes of allele frequencies and gene expression. Project ERC CoG ECOFEED and FRAIB MOBEXP.

People involved: J. Cote (contact), L. M. San Jose, E. Bestion, F. Pellerin , L. Di Gesu, M. Richard, L. Winandy, E. Darnet, S. Blanchet, E. Fromm

Past projects

Adaptive responses to climate change in a fragmented landscape (2015 – 2018)
The main goal is to study how common lizards can adapt to global warming. To do so, we measure on common lizards phenotypic variation (behaviour, melanism and thermal preferences) and life history traits (dispersal, survival, growth) through successive generations of populations maintained in different climatic conditions and connected each others or isolated. Using this approach allows us to tease apart the influence of dispersal, selection and phenotypic plasticity into the adaptation to climate change.

People involved: J. Cote (contact), F. Pellerin,E. Bestion, L. Di Gesu, R. Aguilée, M. Richard, L. Winandy, E. Darnet

Saptial learning in Heliconiini butterflies (2019)
Mushroom bodies (MBs) are higher-order processing structures in the insect brain associated with learning and memory, particularly in olfactory, and in some cases visual, contexts. In Heliconius butterflies, a genus of approximately 48 species, the MBs are greatly expanded, being 3-4 times larger than is typical of Lepidoptera, including closely related Heliconiini genera . However, the behavioural consequences of this MB size increase, and the selective pressures that drove it, remain unknown. The close phylogenetic relatedness and ecological similarity between the Heliconiini, and the apparently recent evolution of pollen feeding (~15mya), provides an ideal framework for investigating the adaptive role of MB expansion. Heliconius butterflies engage in an adaptation unique among Lepidoptera, active pollen feeding. Pollen feeding provides an adult source of amino acids permitting a greatly extended lifespan without reproductive senescence. Pollen is collected from a restricted range of mostly cucurbitaceous flowering plants occurring at low densities in spatially complex environments. To utilise these resources efficiently individuals establish “traplines”; routes through an individual’s environment that are used with a high degree of spatial and temporal regularity, reminiscent of the foraging behaviour observed in orchid and bumble bees. Foraging efficiency is experience dependent, and individuals focus their foraging efforts on a home range of less than 1 km2 centred around a small number of visually-located roosts. This behaviour suggests that pollen feeding is highly dependent on an enhanced, visually-orientated spatial memory and may have driven MB expansion. However, this hypothesis has not been formally tested, and there is little empirical data on spatial learning ability amongst Heliconius and related genera that do not collect pollen. The objective of this project is to directly compare the spatial learning abilities of Heliconius butterflies with those of related Heliconiini, which do not exhibit expanded mushroom bodies. Furthermore, this will be the first comparative study across species directly measuring behaviour to test the role of MBs in spatial learning. Project ERC starting MuBoEx.

People involved: S. MontgomeryF. Young (contact)

Inter-morph differences in social behaviour, space use, and reproductive success (2018)
The European common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) is a well-suited model in which to study the role of social behaviour in the maintenance of polymorphism: it’s mating system is characterized by strong male-male competition and high rates of multiple paternity, and both sexes present a striking orange-white-yellow ventral colour polymorphism. The questions raised are rather simple: how did the morphs evolve, and how are they maintained in the face of eroding selection? While it is often assumed that the different ventral colours function as social signals, the evidence in this regard is scarce. To this purpose we have established 10 artificial polymorphic populations in which we will carry out behavioural observations, incubate the resulting clutches and infer paternity. Together, behavioural and paternity information will allow us to detect (if they exist) differences in the socio-sexual and spatial behaviour among P. muralis morphs that would suggest the existence of co-adapted sets of behavioural traits associated with each ventral coloration (i.e. alternative mating strategies).

People involved: J. Abalos (contact), G. Pérez i de Lanuza, A. Bartolomé, O. Liehrmann, F. Aubret, P. Carazo, E. Font

Genetic determinants of dispersal behavior, a multispecies approach (2015)
In this project, we explore the genetic bases of disperser and resident phenotypes by determining both the DNA sequences and the levels of expression of a panel of candidate genes potentially linked to the expression of dispersal behavior using 12 animal species including Insects, Molluscs and Vertebrates.

People involved: D. Legrand (contact), J. Cote (contact)

Influence of inter-individual heterogeneity in dispersal on metapopulation dynamics(2016)
The aim of this experiment is to investigate the mechanisms involved in the butterfly persistence in fragmented and unstable landscapes. As the inter-individual heterogeneity in dispersal may play a role in this persistence, we are investigating its influence on butterfly metapopulation dynamics using the large white (Pieris brassicae) as a model species. The Metatron allows us to create different landscapes contexts in semi-natural conditions and to monitor butterfly metapopulations through several generations.

People involved: L. Raymond (contact), M. Baguette

Invasion processes in a dragonfly species (2015)
This project aimed to quantify the variation and plasticity of phenotypic traits across the gradient of range expansion of Crocothemis erythraea, a Mediterranean dragonfly naturally expanding its range northwards through Europe. In 2015, we created semi-natural populations of C. erytraea into the Metatron to experimentally test differentiation in population invasiveness across the species’ gradient of range expansion.

People involved: L. Therry (contact), F. Finn, S. Blanchet, J. Cote

Genetic and environmental determinants of dispersal in Bufo bufo (2015)
The project aimed at studying whether the determinants of dispersal behaviors are more genetic than environmental, or the opposite way around. To do so, we used the common toad, Bufo bufo. We created a common garden experiment with individuals issued from different environments in order to quantify the impacts of forest stands on individual dispersal propensity (phenotypic plasticity vs microevolution). We expected that individuals from environments of lower quality (i.e. smaller forest habitats or warmer environments) have better mobility skills suggesting better dispersal abilities. This study allowed us to better understand selective processes acting on functional traits linked to dispersal and to calibrate adaptive dynamics models to better predict species responses to environment variations induced by global warming.

People involved:A. Trochet (contact), H. Le Chevalier, O. Calvez, A. Ribéron, S. Blanchet

Dispersal behavior in a butterfly (2015)
In this project we investigated the dispersal behavior in the currently northward expanding butterfly Lycaena tityrus. We were particularly interested in the factors associated with dispersal under semi-natural conditions and the relative importance of intrinsic (morphology, physiology, motivation) versus environmental (abiotic conditions, resource availability) factors. We therefore measured dispersal behavior under different environmental conditions in the Metatron, predicting that the relative importance of factors will differ among beneficial and more challenging conditions.

Ecological causes of dispersal in butterflies
We have used experimental meta-populations of the large white butterfly Pieris brassicae to determine which factors primarily drive the dispersal decision. By testing for the effect of a panel of environmental factors (climatic conditions, density, sex ratio, habitat quality) and phenotypic traits (morphology, performance, thermoregulation ability), we showed that climatic conditions and habitat quality are the main triggers of dispersal.

People involved: D. Legrand (contact), A. Trochet, O. Calvez, V. Stevens, S. Ducatez, J. Clobert, M. Baguette

Evolution of butterfly dispersal syndromes
By relating dispersal in the Metatron with a series of phenotypic traits, this project has demonstrated that dispersers and residents of the large white butterfly Pieris brassicae have distinct specialized phenotypes subject to selection. We have determined that this phenotypic syndrome is adaptive, and that correlations between the studied dispersal-related traits are not due to genetic constrains.

People involved: D. Legrand (contact), N. Larranaga, R. Bertrand, O. Calvez, V. Stevens, S. Ducatez, M. Baguette