Evolutionary ecology and adaptation

Representatives: Jean-Dominique Durand (IRD) and David McKenzie (CNRS)


Anthropogenic pressures and the resulting climate change are extremely recent evolutionary forces whose effects on marine biodiversity are considered as major. Our ability to model and predict these effects require a better understanding of the biological factors that define the limits of a species’ distribution, its fundamental ecological niche. These factors include searching in the demographic history, fitness and adaptive capacity of species in view of environmental conditions. The overall objective of this topic is to better understand the evolutionary history, the genetic diversity, the physiological characteristics (especially during different ontogenetic stages), the life history traits and the dispersal capacities in marine organisms.
The integration of these informations should help to better characterize the fundamental niche of species and ultimately improve the predictive ability of the models seeking to determine the effects of future environmental changes.


  • To establish links between the geographic distribution of model marine organisms and their evolutionary history, their lives traits, and their physiological characteristics

  • To characterize the genetic and physiological architecture of marine organisms

  • To characterize ontogeny of physiological capacities, life history traits and changes confronted with some environmental pressures
To understand the relationship between genotype and phenotype (physiology, behavior, life history traits)

  • To study the genetic and physiological mechanisms of adaptation due to environmental changes (salinity, temperature, pH)
To study the determinism of toxic algal blooms.


  • Geographic areas: the various coastal and littoral marine ecosystems located in the Mediterranean, Atlantic , Indian & Pacific Oceans, Caspian Sea.

  • Models: Teleostei, chondrichthyans, shellfish, toxic microalgae, phanerogam, algae, cnidarians.


  • Data: diversity of genetic, physiological and life history traits,; trophic level.

  • Methods: Experiments and observations in vivo, in vitro, in situ; genetic typing; gene expression; microscopy; otolithometry; chemical, biochemical, functional and isotopic analyses

  • Isolation and cell culture; strain collection: permanent collection of microalgae; controlled crossing, functional trait selection.

  • Analyses: Population genetics, phylogeography, molecular phylogeny, ecophysiology, quantitative genetics, conservation physiology, ontogenetic study, larval ecology, study of toxin diversity.
Modeling: Statistical modeling of the fundamental ecological niches.


MARBEC MARine Biodiversity, Exploitation and Conservation, is a research unit which includes the staff of 4 organizations: IRD, IFREMER, UM and CNRS. Its objective is the study of marine biodiversity in lagoon coastal and offshore ecosystems, at different integration levels, molecular, individual, population and community aspects and the way humans use this biodiversity.