Macro-evolution in the Mediterranean


I’m participating in a project led by Antigoni Kaliontzopoulou and Fernando Martínez-Freiría from CIBIO (Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources) in Porto, Portugal, in which we are looking for general evolutionary patterns followed by several lineages of amphibians and reptiles with respect to climatic, distributional and morphological variables. Being the Mediterranean a biodiversity hot-spot with an interesting geological history it presents an ideal scenario to study macro-evolutionary patterns, and could potentially provide new insights regarding the evolution of other taxa in other biodiverse locations around the world.


thumb_img_1664_1024Ecomorphological patterns in tropidurine lizards

Lizards of the Tropidurinae clade have diversified in South America occupying almost every imaginable habitat. The great diversity of the continent in terms of climate and environments is thought to have shaped the morphological diversity of several taxa, including lizards. But how?

In this large-scale project, which I conducted at the Museum of Comparative Zoology of Harvard University and the Losos lab, I measured relevant morphological traits from museum specimens trying to obtain a representative sample of the morphological diversity present in this clade of lizards. This effort allowed me to count with a database that included 154 species of 10 different genera included in Tropidurinae (1000+ specimens). You can read the paper here and also learn more of the incredible diversity of this clade in the series of tropidurine posts in the blog.




Performance of the software STRUCTURE

At the moment I’m working in a project in collaboration with Raphaël Leblois and Pierre-André Crochet from the Centre de Biologie pour la Gestion des Populations (CBGP) in Montpellier, evaluating the performance of this widely used software. Using the power of computer-based simulations we are studying how situations of hybridization are being represented by the output of STRUCTURE under different conditions. You can read more about this project in this series of posts.





img_3303_1024Ectoparasitism in lizards

Parasitic infections are common interactions in nature. Among lizards, ectoparasitism has been well studied in different species and its detrimental effects have been described. In collaboration with the Evolutionary Ecology laboratory in the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia, Lima-Peru, I studied the effects of different types of habitats and behaviors in the ectoparasitic load and prevalence in Microlophus occipitalis, a lizard found in the northern coasts of Peru.




img_3996-2_1024Diet ecomorphology in Microlophus lizards

Ecomorphology is a well studied topic in several groups of lizards; however, no information about this subject was available when I was an undergrad. As part of the Laboratory of Biodiversity Studies of the Universidad Peruana Cayetano Heredia I described the links between morphology and diet in lizard species of the genus Microlophus. As expected, I found morphological differences between species that had diets of different characteristics (e.g. hardness), specifically between insectivores and semi-herbivores. Although the initial project considered only two species I extended the number of species to four (all Microlophus). You can read the paper here. A lot is still to be discovered in respect to lizard ecomorphology in this particular group!!