Dr. Ylenia Chiari's Research Area

Our work focuses on vertebrate ecology and evolution. Our main research interests are the study of human impacts on vertebrates, morphological and molecular evolution, and comparative genomics

Human impacts on vertebrates

Urban ecology and evolution

Humans have caused major modifications to the environment and may be partly responsible for driving rapid or contemporary evolution of the organisms living in it. We are interested in understanding how human disturbance and urbanization affect species composition and influence phenotypic (e.g., growth, body size) and genetic changes in populations. For this work, we combine field data, GIS, morphological and molecular data, and citizen science.

Genetic and phenotypic responses to contaminant exposure

There is growing interest in the effects that environmental contaminants can have on living organisms. I am interested in studying the influence of short- and long-term environmental contamination on species evolution and possible adaptation to disturbed environments. In collaboration with S. Glaberman, E. García-Muñoz, and MA. Carretero, we are using amphibian and reptile species to study the genetic and phenotypic response of organisms to contaminant exposure. To accomplish this, my research combines molecular evolution, molecular biology, and comparative phylogenetic methods.


Vertebrate morphological evolution

Evolution of shell shape in Galápagos tortoises

The giant tortoises inhabiting the Galápagos archipelago represent one of only two surviving lineages of once widespread giant tortoises. Galápagos tortoises have two very distinct shell shapes: either domed, with a typical rounded carapace, or saddleback, with a higher anterior opening of the carapace and a more compressed shape on the sides. Although there is a correlation between shell shape and environmental characteristics (drier or more humid environment), it is currently not clear if the different shell morphologies represent an adaptation to these environment and in this case, what is the function and performance for which they are adapted to. In collaboration with J. Claude and A. Caccone, I am interested in studying the evolution and possible adaptation of the different shell morphologies within and among populations of the giant Galápagos tortoises. To this purpose, I combine genetic and morphometric data. I am also collaborating with B. Gilles and A. van der Meijden to include a functional morphology approach in my research. An interview on our work (in Dutch) on functional morphology can be found here.

Evolution of color and pattern in lizards

Body color and color patterns in vertebrates are one of the best known examples of phenotypic variation and coloration has been shown to evolve based on the interactions between and organism and its environment. Coloration and color patterns are known to be functionally important for sexual selection, communication, and mimicry. We are interested in investigating: 1) the molecular basis of color and color pattern variation in lizards; 2) how color patterns change during ontogeny and if these changes can be explained by reaction/diffusion; 3) the ecological function of different color patterns (e.g., communication, predator escape, individual recognition). To accomplish this work, we integrate genomics, mathematical modeling, and behavioral experiments. This project is in collaboration with Dr. T. Gamble and Dr. Maria Audi Byrne.


Recent Publications

(The complete list of publications can be found at http://www.yleniachiari.it/publications)
  1. Y. Chiari, S. Glaberman, P. Tarroso, A. Caccone, J. Claude (2016) Ecological and evolutionary influences on body size and shape in Galapagos marine iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus). Oecologia, accepted

  2. DL. Martin, Y. Chiari, E. Boone, TD. Sherman, C. Ross, S. Wyllie-Echeverria, JK. Gaydos, AA. Boettcher (2016) Functional, phylogenetic and host-geographic signatures of Labyrinthula spp. provide for putative species delimitation and a global-scale view of seagrass wasting disease. Estuaries and Coasts, accepted

  3. N. Poulakakis, DL. Edwards, Y. Chiari, RC. Garrick, E. Benavides, MA. Russello, GJ. Watkins-Colwell, S. Glaberman, W. Tapia, JP. Gibbs, LJ. Cayot, A. Caccone (2015) Description of a new Galapagos giant tortoise species (Chelonoidis, Testudines, Testudinidae) from Cerro Fatal on Santa Cruz Island. PLoS One 10: e0138779

  4. B. Gasse, Y. Chiari, J. Silvent, T. Davit-Beal, J-Y. Sire (2015) Amelotin: an enamel matrix protein that experienced distinct evolutionary pathways in amphibians, sauropsids and mammals. BMC Evolutionary Biology 15: 47

  5. Y. Chiari, S. Glaberman, N. Serén**, MA. Carretero, I. Capellini (2015) Phylogenetic signal in amphibian sensitivity to copper sulfate relative to experimental temperature. Ecological Applications 25: 596 - 602

  6. J. Romiguier, P. Gayral, M. Ballenghien, A. Bernard, V. Cahais, A. Chenuil, Y. Chiari, R. Dernat, L. Duret, N. Faivre, E. Loire, JM. Lourenco, B. Nabholz, C. Roux, G. Tsagkogeorga, AA-T. Weber, LA. Weinert, K. Belkhir, N. Bierne, S. Glemin, N. Galtier (2014) Comparative population genomics in animals uncovers the determinants of genetic diversity. Nature 515: 261 - 263