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Unravelling the genetics of ecological speciation: adaptive genomics of two avian radiations

Understanding the genetic bases of adaptive divergence and speciation will be the next major challenge in evolutionary biology.

We propose to approach this problem by using two cases of adaptive radiation in finches: the Nesospiza buntings of the Tristan archipelago and the Serinus seedeaters of the Gulf of Guinea. The study models have been chosen for their simplicity and because molecular and ecological data indicate that selection has played a major role in these radiations. We will sample a large number of unlinked markers across the genome (including c. 40 microsatellite loci and a microarray able to analyse c. 18,000 genes) in order to distinguish between neutral and selected loci. The former will be used to infer robust phylogenetic and demographic histories, and the later to identify regions underlying phenotypic variation. As we are particularly interested in identifying regions underlying bill evolution, we will assess if genes known to be responsible for bill development in other species play the same role here.
This project will make use of advanced molecular tools, including some techniques currently being developed. To guarantee that its objectives are successfully addressed, a collaborative network has been established between five institutions . Such collaboration will both ensure a very high level of expertise at all stages and will allow making the most cost-effective use of some of the very best laboratory facilities available. This collaboration was launched with a workshop on the genetics of bird speciation that took place in February 2009 in Cape Town

Principal Investigator
Martim Melo

Martim Melo

Position: Post-Doc Researcher
Proponent Institution
Funded by
2009 (Duration: 2 years)
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