HELICITY: Evolution of correlated traits in response to city life: helicid snails as windows on the consequences of urban history

01 June 2021 → 31 May 2023
European funding: framework programme, Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Natural sciences
    • Behavioural ecology
    • Biology of adaptation
urbanisation adaptation colour mobility
Other information
Project description

Urbanization is one of the most dramatic land-use changes caused by humans, combining habitat fragmentation and loss, pollutions and increased temperature. While it causes numerous population declines in many species, others persist or even thrive in cities, possibly through evolutionary changes. In this project, I will study how urbanization shapes multivariate phenotypic evolution in such an organism, including not only life-history traits, movement strategies/space use… but their association into integrated phenotypes. As a central point, I will explicitly consider the oft-neglected temporal heterogeneity/ history of the urbanization process, comparing new and older urban neighbourhoods to see under which conditions organisms can adapt to city life fast enough. Using snails as models, this Action will combine advances in small animal tracking, statistical analysis and data science with state-of-the-art evolutionary ecology, to not only explore the mechanisms behind observed changes, but also potential consequences for relevant aspects of ecosystem functioning. This project will increase our understanding of the ecological consequences of evolution in response to human-caused environmental changes, helping fill major knowledge gaps noted by the IPBES. Through outreach, it will increase community engagement with (urban) biodiversity. Finally, by merging two of my long-standing research lines in a common, integrated project, through the acquisition of new scientific skills and training in project management, it will favour my establishment as an independent leader in the field.

Role of Ghent University
The fellowship obtained by dr. Dahirel will be conducted at Ghent University
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Research Executive Agency (REA). Neither the European Union nor the authority can be held responsible for them.