Research Team / Research Group Name (if any)
Soil Zoology Group /Molecular Phylogeny Group
Brief description of the Research Team / Research Group / Department
My work on earthworms" evolutionary biology has focused on molecular phylogeny, phylogeography, systematics, speciation, reproduction and adaptation to stressful environmental factors. My questions have been directed towards endemic, cosmopolitan and lately invasive species. These animals, although often neglected, represent a fantastic model for different elementary questions, since they live intimately related and influenced by the soil, and their dispersal capacity (with exceptions) is relatively low. That makes them excellent candidates to study phylogeographic patterns, cryptic speciation or adaptation capacities (phenotypic, genomic or epigenomic). My training covers diverse topics on animal macro- and microevolution from deep phylogenies to molecules. I have used the latest techniques, such as Next Generation Sequencing (phylogenomics, gene expression based on transcriptomes, epigenomics) and have combined them with traditional techniques (molecular markers, qPCR, histology, morphology, in-situs, environmental analyses), in order to gain the most comprehensive insight into the problems investigated. Our group includes experts on earthworm taxonomy, phylogeny and ecology.
Research lines / projects proposed
The aim of my current project is to understand the molecular mechanisms that may allow the survival and adaptation of earthworms under the changing environmental conditions derived from Climate Change (primarily heat and hydric stress) in the short term (acclimation: physiological response and gene expression) and the long-term (adaptive response: positive selection and molecules evolution) and to identify potential molecular biomarkers for future assessment of other populations/species of earthworms or different invertebrates. Within the project we will study: i) the relationships among genomic<br />(SNPs) and climatic variation in earthworm populations of some species inhabiting locations with differences in precipitation and heat patterns. Those species possessing genetic variation associated to climate would have a greater chance to survive and adapt to future changes; ii) the molecular mechanisms that regulate the aestivation in earthworms, as a physiological response under heat ad hydric stress; iii) some of the potential biochemical tools of earthworms against Climate Change, through the evolutionary and functional analysis of small Heat Shock Proteins (sHSPs). The results will allow to better understand the mechanisms of adaptation and acclimation of soil invertebrates to some of the environmental challenges associated with the Climate Change, as well as identify relevant molecular markers to be used as bioindicators under those conditions. Genomic, epigenomic and transcriptomic data will be generated that<br />will provide an overview of the adaptive processes but will also serve as valuable genetic information sources for this ecologically relevant group of organisms.