Major European subsidy for Leiden evolutionary biology
Paul Brakefield, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the Institute of Biology in Leiden (IBL) has been awarded an ERC Advanced Grant for his research. He will receive 2.5 million euro to develop his research programme over a period of five years.
A hundred and fifty years after the publication of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin, people continue to be fascinated by how new species arise and how they diversify. Darwin put forward the theory that natural selection leads to new species, each of which is adapted to its own ecological environment. This kind of ecological speciation has been well researched invertebrates, such as Darwin's finches, but has hardly been studied at all in lower species of animals.
Image: Speciation in vertebrates, such as Darwin's finches, has been well researched.
In this research programme entitled Exploring Morphospaces in Adaptive Radiations to unravel Ecological Speciation, Professor Brakefield's group will study ecological speciation in 250 related tropical butterflies. The group has already carried out research on the Bicyclus anynana or Squinting Bush Brown. This research can now be continued and even expanded. The researchers will investigate the characteristics that are crucial in adaptation and speciation and will then analyse the relational patterns between species to show how ecological speciation took place.
Image: Squinting Bush Brown, or Bicyclus anynana.
The ERC Advanced Grant is a subsidy provided by the European Research Council. The ERC is the European provider of subsidies for scientific research. There are two types of grants: the ERC Starting Grant for newly qualified researchers and the ERC Advanced Grant for experienced academics. Both subsidies are intended for scientists who carry out innovative and pionering research. A characteristic of the winning project proposals is that they are very ambitious, they go beyond the familiar paths and are headed by ‘exceptional leaders only’.
The research group headed by Professor Brakefield is part of the ‘Evolutionary Biosciences’ cluster of Leiden's Institute of Biology. In this cluster evolution biologists from diverse backgrounds work together on evolutionary issues relating to speciation and the development of new characteristics. It is one of the two research profile areas of the IBL, that offers opportunities for extensive research in its recently opened new premises. The IBL will be working closely with such organisations as Naturalis.
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