The genetic basis of adaptation to captivity: the Drosophila subobscura model


Understanding the evolutionary and genetic mechanisms underlying adaptation is of importance not only for evolutionary biology in general, but in particular for the purpose of conservation. In a time of intense environmental change arising from human activities, the adaptation of wild species to rapid environmental change has become a pressing ecological issue. Furthermore, given the need to rescue some endangered species using ex situ populations, the evolutionary consequences of long term captivity are a particular concern for conservation genetics.

Our team has been using Drosophila subobscura as a model organism to study the evolutionary dynamics of adaptation to the laboratory, an approach that helps to reveal both the prospects for adaptive response to rapid environmental change in the wild as well as the evolutionary fate of captive populations. We have analysed in detail the evolutionary trajectories of life history traits, both in short and long term studies, comparing the evolution of multiple populations as a test for convergence and repeatability of results. We have been also characterizing changes in microsatellite markers in order to estimate the effects of genetic drift and to search for selective sweeps.

This project as a whole will constitute one of the most direct attempts to answer one of the most fundamental questions in evolutionary biology: what is the genetic basis of adaptation?

Working towards this goal we are: