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Ecology, Evolution & Development



We are based at Donana Biological Station (CSIC), and we have a general interest in ecology and evolution, but we are specifically focused on how organisms alter their phenotypes in response to changing environments and the evolutionary role of environmentally-induced changes in development. We use various amphibian and invertebrate species as study systems, studying their adaptations to abiotic factors plus their interactions with predators, competitors, pathogens and organisms in other trophic levels.

What do we do?



Macroevolutionary analyses of trait evolution in amphibians

We conduct large-scale comparative phylogenetic analyses to study the evolution of traits, such as the amazing diversity of reproductive modes and life-histories observed across amphibians, as well as its possible causes and consequences. 


Evolutionary genomics of amphibians

We are comparing genomes across spadefoot toad species (Pelobatoidea) to understand how genomic architecture has varied among related species with widely differing genome sizes, as a function of divergence in developmental rates.


Evolution of developmental plasticity in amphibians

Amphibians, and especially their larvae, are very sensitive to environmental factors, but have often evolved the ability to perceive environmental fluctuations (e.g. predator presence, water level, temperature, density of conspecifics) and to respond accordingly adjusting their behavior, life history and even morphology (including pigmentation). We study the regulation of this remarkable capacity for developmental plasticity, at the endocrine, transcriptomic and epigenomic levels.


Role of developmental plasticity in evolution

We study whether environmentally induced developmental alterations within-species may evolve under selection into among-species differences, mostly using amphibians as model systems. Specifically, we are testing this hypothesis of genetic accommodation studying the evolution of developmental rate and developmental plasticity among spadefoot toad species, using a rather integrative approach, from experimental data at cellular, physiological and organismal levels, to comparative genomics.


Ecological role of larval amphibians in aquatic ecosystems

Amphibian larvae are key in aquatic systems, where they affect nutrient cycling, energy fluxes, and act both as primary and secondary consumers. Tadpoles have complex interactions with their predators and their prey, in part due to their own developmental plasticity. We are particularly interested in their interactions with aquatic plants. Some anuran larvae are considerable herbivores, whereas others can have positive effects on plant growth. Interestingly, we have found that several species can also disperse seeds and induce their germination.



Stress physiology and lifespan in amphibians

Stress can be defined as the organism’s response to either external or internal factors that challenge its homeostasis. We study how amphibians respond physiologically to different environmental challenges, both natural (e.g. predator presence, risk of pond drying, parasites, temperature) and anthropogenic (e.g. pollutants, microplastics, gamma radiation, invasive plant and animal species).

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