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Evolutionary and Mechanistic Approach to the Adaptation of Lepidoptera to Environmental Change

It is increasingly clear that today’s global warming has an influence on ecosystems and, in particular, causes the displacement of certain animal groups toward cooler regions. This is the case with Lepidoptera for which significant displacement in excess of 30 km on average has been demonstrated, for the European and North American species. Out of all Lepidoptera, the Colias genus is a model organism for studying adaptation to climate variations. In particular, partners to the programme have succeeded in showing the impact of natural selection due to thermal stress and the increase in thermal stochasticity on the polymorphism of an enzyme that controls metabolism: phosphoglucose isomerase.

Previous studies in enzymology (Ward B. Watt), molecular biology (Chris Wheat) and functional ecology (Jean-François Martin) have made it possible to develop an overall milieu/individual/thermal stress flow chart, which selects particular genotype compositions by microclimate niche.

This phenomenon has been demonstrated for a species of North American butterfly. During the course of this programme, our objective will be to check the possible spread of the mechanism, whether across space, by studying a wide distribution, present both in the Alps and the Rocky Mountains, or through genus evolution, or even across the Lepidoptera species in the broadest sense.

The multi-disciplinary and mechanistic approach to Lepidoptera adaptation to environmental changes and, in particular, to stochasticity and warming, will make it possible to understand the parallel global mechanisms that influence the group’s current distribution and evolution, which is also a classic bioindicator in many fields.

  • Adaptation
  • Impacts