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80 Prime: the project led by A. Khila has been selected

80 PRIME: the CNRS promotes multi-team inter-institutional research projects


Experimental evolution to unravel the mechanisms underlying phenotypic variation - A. Khila, P. Gibert and C. Vieira

Developmental biology provides an in-depth understanding of how genes construct phenotypes over the course of an individual's lifetime. Evolutionary biology tries to understand variation of this phenotype between individuals in the same population. Developmental phenotypic plasticity, i.e. the ability for the same genotype to produce different phenotypes depending on environmental conditions, represents a great opportunity to understand the developmental genetic processes underlying high phenotypic variation [1]. This project gathers experts in phenotypic plasticity, population genetics and EvoDevo,  to address the genetic and developmental mechanisms driving the extreme phenotypic variation in leg growth observed in an emerging model, the water strider Microvelia longipes [2]. Using experimental evolution, tests of mate choice and assessment of fitness costs, we will uncover the molecular, developmental and ecological factors underlying the emergence and maintenance of phenotypic variation. This multidisciplinary program will provide a better understanding of how genetic variation affects developmental processes and can generate extreme phenotypic variation observed in natural populations.

1. Gibert P, Debat V, Ghalambor CK. Phenotypic plasticity, global change, and the speed of adaptive evolution. Curr Opin Insect Sci. 2019;35:34-40. 

2. Toubiana W, Khila A. Fluctuating selection strength and intense male competition underlie variation and exaggeration of a water strider's male weapon. Proc Biol Sci. 2019;286(1901):20182400.