Oriol Lapiedra (CREAF), December 18th, 2019

"Animal behavior as a driver of ecological and evolutionary dynamics in changing environments"


Evolutionary biologists have long debated the role of behavior in evolution, yet evidence of its importance as a driver of adaptation is hampered by a scarcity of empirical data. My research combines comparative phylogenetics and large-scale field experiments to unravel whether and how animal behavior can facilitate evolutionary responses to new environments. In my talk, I will focus in a recent large-scale experimental study of natural selection on behavior in the wild. In this study, we used experimentally established island populations of lizards to investigate the effects of natural selection on both behavior and morphology. In this study we showed for the first time that ecologically relevant behavior can be strongly selected for under different experimental treatments. In addition, we found evidence that this selection occurs simultaneously, but independently to selection on morphology. I will also explain how these behavioral shifts have driven cascading changes in the ecological dynamics of these island ecosystems. My future plans include expanding this work in the Caribbean and the Balearic islands to unravel the evolutionary processes behind the early stages of adaptation to changing environments—a question of great relevance in a changing Planet.


Oriol Lapiedra is an evolutionary ecologist studying how organisms adapt to environmental changes. He is a Beatriu de Pinós fellow at CREAF and a National Geographic Explorer. His main interest is to study the ecological and evolutionary consequences of behavioral adaptation to new selection pressures. His research combines approaches from behavioral ecology, evolutionary ecology, and global change biology. By using methods ranging from comparative phylogenetics to large scale field studies of experimental evolution, his overarching research aim is to shed light into how animals successfully cope with new selective pressures, including human-induced rapid environmental changes such as urbanization and biological invasions. Oriol received a BS in Biology from the University of Barcelona, a PhD at CREAF and moved to the US for his postdoctoral research (at University of Chicago, University of Rhode Island, and Harvard University). His current research uses wild populations of lizards to understand the factors driving changes in eco-evolutionary dynamics of animal populations in rapidly changing environments.