Evolution and Behaviour

The “Evolution and Behaviour” unit combines several themes involving the diversity and evolution of reproductive, locomotive, feeding and social behaviour in animal, insect and fish models. We work on five main themes:


  • Cognition, reproduction and adaptation in bees, with Jean-Christophe Sandoz, who has conducted research on the genetic and nerve bases of the sense of smell and their evolution among hymenoptera. He also studies the rules underlying the reproductive behaviour of bees and their adaption to the environment,
  • Evolution and plasticity of cognitive capacities with Frédéric Méry, highlighting the evolutionary biology of social interactions and social learning.
  • Pheromones, food, chemoreception and sexual selection, with Dominique Joly and Frédéric Marion-Poll, who have carried out research into the nature and role of chemical signals of a food and sexual origin in the adaption of drosophila to their environment, as well as in the recognition and choice of sexual partners.
  • Adaptation and speciation in drosophila with Amir Yassin, who studies the phenotypic and genotypic modifications allowing an insect species (Drosophila yakuba) to adapt to a toxic fruit (the noni).
  • Diversity and evolution of vertebrates with Didier Casane who, through approaches based on population genetics, phylogenetics, phylogeography, the molecular evolution of genes and genomes, and the evolution of development mechanisms, studies the evolution of cavernicolous fish populations from the Astyanax mexicanus species (Mexico), and of species from the Lucifuga (Cuba and Bahamas) and Trichomycterus (Peru) genus. In particular, he analyses the evolution of the genes involved in the profound changes to these animals’ sensorial systems.

By pooling the questions and knowledge of its teams, the Evolution and Behaviour unit has developed an integrated approach to reproductive, feeding and social behaviour, from research into the molecular and physiological mechanisms underlying behaviour (emission-reception of signals) to the study of the evolutionary pressures acting at the level of groups of individuals. We have developed a series of experimental approaches mainly focusing on individuals and which are specific to our unit: behavioural observations, electrophysiology, neuroanatomy and functional imaging, conditioning and learning aspects, analysis of chemical signals.


Keywords :

– Biological Models: Drosophila, Pollinators, Cave fishes, insects, Crop pests, Edible Invasive species, Parasitoids, Chagas disease vectors.

-Thematic: Adaptation, Agroecology, Biogeography, Biological control, Chemical ecology, Coevolution, Community Ecology, Ecosystem services, Environmental risk assessment, Evolution, Genomics, Habitat disturbance, Molecular evolution, Phylogeography, Phylogeny, Population dynamics, Population genetics, Sensory physiology, Speciation mechanisms, Transcriptomics.

-Tools: Bioinformatics, Electrophysiology, Functional imaging, High-throughput sequencing, Image analysis, Microsatellites, Mitochondrial DNA, Molecular systematic, Quantitative genetics, Statistical modelling.

-Locations: Neotropical and Palearctic zones.

Team members :

Campus CNRS (Gif-sur-Yvette, France) :

Frédéric MARION-POLL, Professeur,


Chemical ecology and evolution of feeding behaviour and chemoreception  in insects.

Applications in insects as food and crop protection (animal and human).

Dominique JOLY, Directrice de recherche,


Evolution of reproduction strategies, sexual selection, sperm competition, genomic and proteomic approaches.

Gaëlle CLAISSE, Ingénieure d’étude,


Biochemistry of reproduction proteins. Functional analysis of seminal peptides involved in the modification of reproductive behaviour in female drosophila.

Immunological and molecular design and development.

Béatrice DENIS, Assistante Ingénieure,


Analysis of the morphology of reproductive system and spermatozoa. Study of spermatogenesis, fertility and paternity. Sexual behaviour and choices. Prevention assistant.




Céline MORENO, Ingénieure d’étude,



Gérard ARNOLD, Directeur de Recherche Émérite,


Behaviour; study of the impact of the invasive Vespa velutina species on the honeybee and on the ecosystem.

The honeybee as a bioindicator species.



Chargé de recherche, CNRS.

Drosophila systematics and speciation genomics

Jean-Christophe SANDOZ, Directeur de Recherche,


Perception and learning for the sense of smell and sight in Apis mellifera bees. Pheromonal communication and sensory and neuronal elements in different species and breeds of bee from the Apis genus. Techniques: in-vivo calcium imaging, neuroanatomy, behaviour (appetitive and aversive conditioning, orientation).

Virginie LARCHER, Assistante Ingénieur,


Neuroanatomy and neurophysiology in Hymenoptera.





Maître de conférences UPSaclay








Didier CASANE, Professeur,
Université Paris Diderot.


Evolution of genomes and mechanisms of development in vertebrates, adaptation of cavernicolous populations in the Astyanax mexicanus species, population genetics of freshwater and marine species in Cuba.

Genetics of snow leopard populations.

Véronique BORDAY-BIRRAUX, Maître de conférences,
Université Paris Diderot.


Comparison of the molecular mechanisms involved in developing dental structures in vertebrates, Evolution of the expression patterns of transcription factors in vertebrates.

Erina FERREIRA, Doctorante



L Valadares, Post Doctorant



Isabelle GERMON, Assistante ingénieur,


Molecular biology, gene expression, imaging.

Maxime POLICARPO, Doctorant,
Ecole doctorale SDSV Université Paris-Saclay.

Evolution of sensorial systems in the cavernicolous fish, Astyanax mexicanus.


Pénélope Tarapacki


Benjamin ANDREU, Doctorant, Ecole doctorale SDSV Université Paris-Saclay.