The POPGEN research group is at the core of CIBIO-InBIO since the beginning of this Center and is now formed by about 35 members, of which more than 20 have a PhD degree.
The main research goal of this group is to understand the mechanisms of differentiation across different stages of the speciation continuum, from population to species level, as well as the main processes involved in the establishment of reproductive isolation.
In particular, POPGEN's research objectives are:
- evaluating differentiation between diverging taxa from a multilocus genomic perspective, in a comparative framework both among genomic compartments within organisms and among distinct organisms occupying the same geographic area;
- assessing the demographic history and levels of gene flow (historical and contemporary) between diverging forms;
- inferring the geographic context of divergence, allowing the evaluation of how prevalent is speciation in the face of gene flow when compared to strict allopatric speciation;
- understanding the importance of introgressive hybridization in speciation;
- evaluating the role of natural selection in phenotypic divergence and how adaptive divergence causes the evolution of further reproductive isolation (i.e. ecological speciation);
- characterizing genome-wide patterns of adaptation and speciation and how these patterns progress during divergence, highlighting genomic regions that appear to play an important role in differentiation and speciation;
- describing the contribution of genomic regions of low recombination (e.g. chromosomal rearrangements or regions in proximity to centromeres) in reproductive isolation;
- understanding how the interaction between selection and recombination shapes genome-wide divergence during adaptation and across different stages of speciation;
- identifying the function of genes and genomic regions involved in adaptation and speciation, providing an important link between genotype and phenotype;
- understanding the genetic basis of parallel evolution, in particular the role of standing genetic variation in parallel phenotypic evolution;
- identifying the main reproductive barriers between taxa (pre- and post-zygotic) and how they come to act together by means of reinforcement and/or coupling;
- inferring the relative importance of natural and sexual selection in speciation; and
- characterizing the genomic basis of traits involved in domestication and in the diversification of domestic breeds.
In order to accomplish these goals, POPGEN implements an interdisciplinary approach (population genomics, comparative transcriptomics, admixture mapping, ecological experiments, functional characterization of genes and modeling, among others) to study a wide range of focal taxa (the European rabbit will be the main model species, but also hares, African cichlid fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and marine snails, among others), comprising a variety of geographic contexts and life histories.