Local adaptation and geographic separation are crucial for the evolution of diversity, and recent whole-genome analyses in humans have revealed evidence for spatial distribution of genetic differences.
The forces shaping these patterns are, however, only understood in few cases, because it is generally not known how genetic differentiation arises in the first place. Top-down approaches can point to regions of the genome under selection in the recent past, but they rarely identify the responsible genes and the selected traits. Conversely, ecological studies on local adaptation have made little use of the progress in genomics.
As part of a program aimed at bridging the gap between ecology and genetics (SPP Adaptomics), we combine modern evolutionary ecology with state-of-the-art genomics to study real-time evolution in Biscutella didyma and other Brassicaceae species. We utilize a unique field experiment to test genome-wide differentiation along multiple aridity gradients, to study whether genome-wide signatures of selection are detectable in populations that have been exposed to manipulated precipitation regimes, and whether phenotypic variability in response to selection gradients corresponds to theoretical predictions. Our goal is to study genome-wide selection signature in three independent aridity clines in B. didyma and related species. In addition, we will expand to other species phenotyping and measurements of new traits for which genetic pathways are well-known and which exhibit clines along the climate gradient.
By focusing on adaptive traits with well-characterized genetic networks, we will not only identify selected genes, but answer to how adaptive potential is being realized in independent comparisons. Our findings will enable us to develop models of adaptive capacity under predicted climate change.
Prof. Dr. Christian Schlötterer- Vetmeduni Vienna