One of humanity’s most profound existential questions is “why are we the way we are?” Put more generally, if life were to begin again, could organisms be completely different from what we see today? Despite the metaphysical nature of these questions, they are not beyond the realm of empirical investigation. Nature has already repeated itself several times in a phenomenon known as evolutionary convergence. A key observation is that evolutionary convergence is more common in closely related organisms. This is seen as evidence that shared developmental and genetic systems can direct evolutionary trajectories. However, little is known about the molecular basis of these systems or how they interact with selective pressures in nature.
This project focuses on two emblematic cases of convergence that are particularly suitable for combining molecular, genetic, and ecological methods. Our study will delve into the repeated evolution of adaptation in cichlid fish and succulent plants.
Using the modern tools of genomics, we will investigate what some of the best examples of convergence have in common.