spider mites
micro snails
microbiomes

Predicting Evolution

Origins Center

The relative contribution of selection, genetic drift, and mutation will affect the predictability of adaptive evolution. This is affected by several factors that may influence each other: the effective population size, the strength of selection and the initial allele frequency. The smaller the effective population size, the higher the importance of random genetic drift, which will decrease the predictability. The larger the selection strength, the more predictable the system's behaviour is. If the beneficial allele is already available at a high frequency in the population, the predictability of adaptive evolution increases.

This project is a collaboration of several research institutes in The Netherlands and Belgium in which we aim to turn evolutionary biology in a more predictive science using experimental evolution with Caenorhabditis elegans

Field work

Borneo & South-Africa

In 2018, Kasper Hendriks and I collaborated to collect micro land snails on limestone outcrops in Sabah (Malaysian Borneo). These species were sampled to investigate correlations between the snails, their diet, and their microbiome. We found positive relationships between the microbiome and both the host community and the diet. Besides, these correlations were strongly affected by the environment, especially by anthropogenic activity and habitat size (Hendriks, Bisschop, et al., 2020; Hendriks et al., 2019).

© Kasper Hendriks
© Kasper Hendriks
© Hylke Kortenbosch
© Hylke Kortenbosch
© Kasper Hendriks
© Kasper Hendriks

In 2019, I joined a field work trip to South-Africa with Jonathan Goldenberg and Federico Massetti as part of a large-scale project investigating the evolution and the thermal properties of the coloured integument of the endemic cordylid lizards. This project will contribute to foresee the resilience of ectotherms to climate change and inspire the development of new biomaterials.

Experimental Evolution

using spider mites as model species

© Karen Bisschop
© Karen Bisschop
© Karen Bisschop
© Karen Bisschop

Experimental evolution is research following the evolution of certain populations across generations. This is a great tool to unravel evolutionary processes, as the initial state and the novel conditions of the populations are known. Ecological and evolutionary dynamics can furthermore be monitored in time in multiple replicates.

Using Tetranychus urticae as model organism, I addressed several questions concerning both the spatial- and the community-context of ecological specialisation. Some findings are listed below.

  • Interspecific competition may counteract the detrimental effect of high dispersal from an ancestral population towards a novel challenging environment (Alzate, Bisschop, et al., 2017).
  • Unsuccessful ghost species can induce a long-term effect on the performance of other members in the community (Bisschop et al., 2020).
  • A heterogeneous environment can facilitate adaptation to a harsh environment by providing an evolutionary stepping stone (Bisschop et al., 2019).

This work is part of a joint research project between Ghent University and the University of Groningen, supported by the U4 Society University network.

Publications