Range expansions

While range expansions have occurred recurrently in the history of most species, their genetic consequences have been little investigated.Theoretical studies have shown that range expansions are quite different from pure demographic expansions and that the extent of recent gene flow conditions expected patterns of molecular diversity within and between populations.

Spatially explicit simulation studies have led to unexpected and fascinating results about genetic patterns emerging after a range expansion. For instance, spatial expansions can generate allele frequency gradients, promote the surfing of rare variants into newly occupied territories, induce the structuring of newly colonized areas into distinct sectors of low genetic diversity, or lead to massive introgression of local genes into the genome of an invading species.

Interestingly, most of these patterns had been previously attributed to distinct selective processes, showing that taking into account the dynamic nature of a species range can lead to a paradigm shift in our perception of evolutionary processes.

We now plan to investigate the joint effects of selection and range expansions.