Research Projects

  • Phylogenomics and macroevolution of skipper butterflies (Lepidoptera: Hesperiidae):

Skippers belong to a diverse group of butterflies with approximately 4000 species distributed across the globe. They have received comparatively low attention by molecular phylogeneticists despite intriguing ecologies and morphologies. We propose to investigate the phylogenetic relationships among major groups of skippers using a next-generation sequencing approach called anchored hybrid enrichment. This method allows us to capture hundreds of protein-coding gene fragments across the genome of these butterflies. Based on this unprecedented amount of data, we will infer a robust backbone for the skipper tree-of-life. The next phase of the project will be to look at different intriguing groups using the same sequencing approach, and eventually to build the largest molecular tree to date for the family by assembling existing datasets and new ones in order to test evolutionary hypotheses in this fascinating group of insects.

Skippers

Main Collaborators : A. Kawahara, A. Warren.

  • Biogeography and diversification of Neotropical water scavenger beetles (Coleoptera: Hydrophilidae):

The family Hydrophilidae is relatively diverse and comprises lineages with very different ecologies and habitat preferences. Neotropical water scavenger beetles have been studied intensively in the past decade because of the wide array of questions brought by these multiple ecologies. Based on an extensive taxon sampling from the northern part of South America (Andes, Amazonia, Guiana Shield), we aim to reveal the mechanisms responsible for the transition from a particular habitat to another. We also investigate the biogeographical and diversification processes at work in this region to have a better understanding of the mechanisms governing the origin and evolution of biodiversity. Finally, we are developing a large project to study the evolution of ecological niches in multiple water scavenger beetles using advanced models of ecological niche modeling and phylogeography.

HydrophilidaeMain Collaborators : A.E.Z. Short, Martin Fikáček.

  • Origin and diversification of predaceous diving beetles (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae):

Diving beetles represent a relatively diverse group of insects and present a high level of cryptic diversity. They are found in a wide variety of habitats such as tropical river edges, high altitude lakes, peat swamps and even in groundwater ecosystems, canopy water tanks and waterfalls. Using the information contained in DNA sequences, we try to assess the level of diversity and its setting up within different groups of diving beetles principally in Southeast Asia. This area presents a high level of endemism, a threatened fauna and an alarming erosion of biodiversity mainly due to human activity. With a highly complex geological history and an excessively large number of oceanic islands, the Australasian archipelago has been a key region to decipher evolutionary processes since the pioneer work of Alfred R. Wallace. As a result, our work mainly focuses on the emblematic islands of Australia, New Guinea and New Caledonia as long as the Wallacea region surrounding the island of Sulawesi where we test a wide range of hypotheses regarding the biogeography, diversification and ecology of these aquatic beetles using a phylogenetic framework.

Diving beetles

Main Collaborators : M. BalkeL. Hendrich, H. Shaverdo.

  • Evolution of ecological preferences and Systematics of African noctuid stem borers (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae: Apameini)  :

– We are investigating the cryptic diversity within the tribe Apameini using molecular phylogenies combined with cutting-edge species delineation methods. Since these moths are pests in Africa, we also try to unravel the origin and the evolutionary processes that may have led to the extant geographical distribution and the specialization on Poaceae using fossil and geological calibrations combined with ancestral character state reconstructions.

Apameini

 

Main Collaborators : B.P. Le RuG.J. Kergoat,  F.L. CondamineJ-F. Silvain.

  • Evolution of Indomalayan-Australasian swallowtail butterflies (Lepidoptera: Papilionidae) :

The Indomalayan-Australasian archipelago holds a remarkable diversity of butterflies spread across myriads of islands, from Indochina to Australia and from the Sunda Shelf to the Pacific Islands (Fiji, New Caledonia, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu…) through New Guinea and the Philippines. Using comprehensive molecular datasets of swallowtail butterflies from emblematic groups (Ornithoptera, Papilio, Troides…), we aim at understanding the biogeographic processes responsible for the geographic distribution of these insects. Because divergence time estimates are available for the entire family we can extrapolate diversification patterns as well and try to understand the mechanisms governing speciation and extinction processes in these clades.

Papilionidae

Main Collaborators : F.L. CondamineG.J. Kergoat, F.A.H. Sperling.

  • Species boundaries and diversification of leafwing butterflies (Lepidoptera: Charaxinae):

Often, butterfly groups present very complex taxonomies due to centuries of species description by naturalists, amateurs and taxonomists, and poorly known systematics because of a lack of large-scale phylogenies. Therefore, in order to investigate the evolutionary history of several groups of brush-footed butterflies from the charismatic subfamily Charaxinae, we use freshly collected material as well as Museum specimens to build DNA matrices which serve as a starting point to test species boundaries using multiple cutting-edge species delimitation methods based on the Coalescent theory. Based on the results of these analyses, we aim at building-up an exhaustive species-level sampling of multiple genera of tropical Nymphalids to infer phylogenetic relationships and test biogeographic and ecological hypotheses. At the moment we concentrate our efforts on the tribes Anaeini (Neotropics) and Charaxini (Afrotropics/Indo-Australia).Charaxinae

Main Collaborators : M. BalkeC. MüllerR. Vila, B. Turlin, Rodolphe Rougerie, F.M.S. Dias.