What we do

         What drives speciation? How do neutral and selective processes shape species differentiation? How do physiographic and climatic oscillations shape biogeographic patterns? What are the genomic adaptations behind species’ life history? These questions are the core of our research program. To answer them we bridge phylogenomics, computational biology, landscape ecology, population genomics, and historical biogeography. Our research focuses on three general areas 1) population genetics, by testing the major factors impacting population differentiation over historical timescales, 2) phylogenomics, by studying how genomic architecture impacts speciation and levels of polymorphisms across the genome, and 3) comparative genomics, by exploring the adaptations that allow species to have particular life histories. Below you will find some of our current projects.

birds and army ants of Amazonia

Species interactions play a central role in the formation of biodiversity with major diversification events being directly linked to the appearance of novel species associations. Here we are interested in understanding the range of adaptations that allow species to interact. In this project, we are exploring the evolutionary underpinnings that allow a community of birds to parasitize army ant swarms in Amazonia, and overcome the extreme costs to exploit toxic and aggressive ants. 

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Genomic architecture controls biogeographic structuring in Amazonian birds

 

Multiple intrinsic and extrinsic processes affect genetic diversity across organisms' genomes. Mutation, recombination, genetic drift, and migration operate simultaneously and heterogeneously and can directly interfere with our ability to estimate the phylogenetic relationships among species. The fast development of new DNA sequencing technologies is opening new horizons on the use of whole-genome sequencing on non-model organisms, allowing us to explore in more detail how microevolutionary processes shape phylogenetic signals across the genome. Here we are leveraging the power of supervised machine learning (SML) to show that phylogenetic signals and demographic parameters vary considerably across the genome and are largely impacted by the interplay between meiotic recombination, mutation rate, and natural selection.

Microevolutionary dynamics of montane birds across the Atlantic Forest

The Atlantic Forest on the coast of Brazil is one of the most diverse and endangered environments on the planet. The high diversity of habitats and the extensive latitudinal distribution of this region offers great opportunities to explore the effects of current and past climates on ecological and evolutionary processes shaping population differentiation, historical demographic, and habitat occupation. We are particularly interested in how cold-associated birds diversify across this region and respond to drastic changes in temperature seasonality in the transition between tropical and subtropical regions. Our results have been showing how a narrow latitudinal gradient can shape microevolutionary processes and contribute to broader-scale biodiversity patterns. We are also interested in tracking cryptic species in this region, particularly in isolated sky-islands.

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Habitat specialization predicts populations history in Amazonian floodplains

Amazonia harbors the largest and more diverse floodplains on Earth. This huge diversity is compartmentalized in distinct habitats that are associated with variations in sedimentation dynamics of the rivers. This configuration offers a great opportunity to test if habitat association can impact neutral and adaptive evolutionary processes, such as population historical demography, and patterns of natural selection associated with adaptations to highly distinct habitats.