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Research Group

Animal Genetics and Evolution

A central question in Evolutionary Biology is how differences in gene repertoire impact the morphological and physiological diversity of animal species. To tackle this issue, we must consider issues such as gene numbers, orthology assignment, patterns of gene loss, the contribution of gene duplication and the interplay of these genomic events with environmental settings (adaptation). The central long-term objective of the Animal Genetics and Evolution team (AGE) is to elucidate and comprehend the evolution of complex traits and gene networks in Metazoans and their impact on animal physiology, in particular in the context of the Anthropocene Epoch.

The ”Omics” Era exemplified by the extraordinary number of full genome projects currently available, offers a unique and timely opportunity to investigate and to understand the basis of animal physiological diversity. The team has been investigating the impact of life history trajectories in the context of genomic processes affecting gene repertoire (gene loss and duplication). By combining comparative and functional genomics, we are carrying out an extensive characterization of the repertoire of fatty acid biosynthetic genes (desaturases and elongases) and nuclear receptors in species representing key informative phyla (e.g. sponges, bryozoans, annelids, molluscs, cephalochordates, and vertebrates) to address the evolution of lipid physiology and endocrine function in Metazoans, especially in the context of the Anthropocene.

Principal Investigator

Team Leader

Filipe Castro is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto and PI of the team in Animal Genetics and Evolution. Among the group’s various research focuses are Comparative Genomics, Physiology and Evolution, Bioinformatics and the Anthropocene.

RESEARCH TEAMS:
Co-Principal Investigator
Researcher

Mónica Lopes-Marques holds a double diploma, the first degree in Biology/Geology (2005) second degree Genetics/Biotechnology (2008), and a Master’s degree in Comparative Genetics (2011). In 2017 she completed her PhD in Biomedical Sciences (2017). She has participated in several international research projects and is experienced in Project management and Data Management for EUProjects.
Currently, she is a an FCT Researcher at CIIMAR (2022.00397.CEECIND), and her research focuses on Aquatic mammals and metabolic adaptations. She aims to understand the correlation between molecular evolution and phenotypic adaptation and use this knowledge to assess the true impact of environmental stressors on aquatic mammals.

RESEARCH TEAMS:
Research Projects

ADAPTCHANGE

ATLANTIDA

BLUEandGREEN

CanAdapt

CORAL

DEEPRISK

E-IMUNO

EvoDis

INNOVMAR

MarInfo

NIAF

Ocean3R

SIDESTREAM

TRANSobesogen

Group members

MSc Student

My name is Bernardo Pinto and i’m currently completing a master’s degree in Biodiversity, Genetics, and Evolution at the University of Porto. My Master’s Thesis, named “The Recurrent Evolution of Aglomerular Kidneys in Teleosts”, focuses on the genetic underpinnings of aglomerularity in several teleost fish lineages.  My main interests are genetics, evolution, ethology and also paleogenomics.

RESEARCH TEAMS:
PhD student
Human Resources

Diogo Oliveira completed his Master degree in Biochemistry in 2017, in the University of Porto, doing work centred on the evolution of cobalamin metabolism in vertebrates. He is currently a PhD student at CIIMAR, with research focused on the evolution of xenobiotic metabolism in Cetacea.

Research Technician

Elza Fonseca is a Researcher at CIIMAR. She holds a BSc in Biochemistry (2010) and a MSc in Bioengineering (2013) from the University of Minho, and a PhD in Biology (2020) awarded by the Faculty of Sciences, University of Porto. Her research interests focus on Molecular & Cellular Biology, Comparative & Functional Genomics, and Evolutionary Biology. She is particularly interested in studying nuclear receptors as one of the largest superfamilies of transcription factors unique to metazoans and responsible for regulating biological processes such as cell differentiation, development, metabolism, and reproduction.

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Researcher

J. Miguel Cordeiro (PhD) has obtained his Licence in Biology (Aveiro (PT)) in 1998; he then took a Master’s degree in Cell Biology (Coimbra (PT)) in 2004 and a PhD in Biology (Aveiro (PT) / Genève (CH)) in 2008. He is now a researcher at CIIMAR in the field of neurobiology dedicated at studying new regulatory mechanisms of fast neurosecretion and on discovering new bioactive compounds effective against several neurological diseases tested in pre-clinical models (Torpedo marmorata and Danio rerio) of disease (Epilepsy, Parkinson’s; Alzheimer’s and Neuromuscular diseases).

RESEARCH TEAMS:
Researcher

I am the group leader of the Molecular Physiology Lab and have been an Associate Professor at Wilfrid Laurier University (Canada) since 2014. I obtained my PhD from the University of British Columbia (Canada) in 1999. I am pursuing a line of research in fish physiology focused primarily on elucidating the mechanisms of ion and nitrogen regulation. However, my research has expanded into understanding the story of stomach loss in vertebrates. My research has been funded by NSERC (Canada) and FCT (Portugal).

RESEARCH TEAMS:
Research Grant

Luís Q. Alves has completed his bachelor's degree in Biology in 2017 (University of Porto – Faculty of Sciences) and master's degree in Bioinformatics and Computational Biology in 2019 (University of Porto – Faculty of Sciences). Since that, he has been working as Research Fellow / Bioinformatician at the Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR – University of Porto). Luís uses and develops computational solutions to study large-scale genomic data, as well as to explore diverse evolutionary processes, namely the mechanism of evolution by gene loss.  

RESEARCH TEAMS:
Researcher

I am a postdoctoral researcher at CIIMAR. I am a biologist, and hold my M.Sc. in Marine Science and Resources, Aquaculture and Fisheries at the University of Porto (2012) and my Ph.D. in Aquaculture at the University of Vigo (2016). During my Ph.D., my studies were oriented toward the diversification of species of interest for aquaculture. I am currently applying genetic tools to explain key aspects of the feeding strategy and diet composition in fish and cephalopods in aquaculture.

RESEARCH TEAMS:
Researcher

Mónica Lopes-Marques holds a double diploma, the first degree in Biology/Geology (2005) second degree Genetics/Biotechnology (2008), and a Master’s degree in Comparative Genetics (2011). In 2017 she completed her PhD in Biomedical Sciences (2017). She has participated in several international research projects and is experienced in Project management and Data Management for EUProjects.
Currently, she is a an FCT Researcher at CIIMAR (2022.00397.CEECIND), and her research focuses on Aquatic mammals and metabolic adaptations. She aims to understand the correlation between molecular evolution and phenotypic adaptation and use this knowledge to assess the true impact of environmental stressors on aquatic mammals.

RESEARCH TEAMS:
MSc Student

My name is Nádia Silva and I graduated in Biology from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP).At the moment, i’m doing a master’s degree in Marine Sciences – Marine Resources at ICBAS, and i’m currently working on a thesis in the Animal Genetics and Evolution (AGE) group. My main interests are genetics, evolution, ecology and conservation.

RESEARCH TEAMS:
MSc Student
Human Resources

Nuno de Sousa was born in 2000 in the city of Lousada, Porto. He graduated in Biology from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP). At the moment, he is doing a master’s degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology at FCUP, and is currently working on a thesis in the Animal Genetics and Evolution (AGE) group. His main interests are genetics, evolution, phylogenetics and taxonomy.

PhD Student

Rui Pinto received his Biology degree in 2016 and his MSc in Biodiversity, genetics and evolution in 2018 from University of Porto. In 2020, he was awarded with a mixed FCT PhD scholarship to perform large-scale comparative genomics with the goal of understanding the molecular bases of avian dietary specializations. The work will be developed between CIIMAR and the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate (University of Copenhagen). He is interested in the interaction between genetics, evolution and ecology.

RESEARCH TEAMS:
Researcher
Human Resources

I am an evolutionary biologist primarily focused on studying evolutionary genomics of adaptation and speciation. In particular, I’m interested in understanding the role of chromosomal rearrangements in adaptation and reproductive isolation using Littorina species (marine Gastropod) as model system. My ultimate goal is to contribute for an open and creative lab environment while searching for answers to a diverse array of problems within the field of evolutionary biology. I am currently a researcher at CIBIO/InBIO (University of Porto) and a close collaborator/visiting researcher at CIIMAR as well as in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences at the University of Sheffield (UK).

Researcher

Ester Dias is a Biologist and holds a M.Sc. in Applied Ecology (2007) and a Ph.D. in Environmental and Marine Sciences (2014), completed at the University of Porto. She is currently a post-doc researcher at CIIMAR were she is studying the life history plasticity of diadromous species. Her research interests also include estuarine ecology and biological invasions, and the use of ecological tracers (e.g. stable isotopes) to characterize food webs and fish movements.

RESEARCH TEAMS:

Main publications

LXRα and LXRβ Nuclear Receptors Evolved in the Common Ancestor of Gnathostomes.

Fonseca E., Ruivo R., Lopes-Marques M., Zhang H., Santos M.M., Venkatesh B., Castro L.F.

2017Genome Biology and Evolution, 9(1):222-230
A mollusk VDR/PXR/CAR-like (NR1J) nuclear receptor provides insight into ancient detoxification mechanisms

Cruzeiro C., Lopes-Marques M., Ruivo R., Rodrigues-Oliveira N., Santos M.M., Rocha M.J., Rocha E., Castro L.F.

2016Aquatic Toxicology, 174: 61-9
Evolutionary functional elaboration of the Elovl2/5 gene family in chordates

Monroig Ó., Lopes-Marques M., Navarro J.C., Hontoria F., Ruivo R., Santos M.M., Venkatesh B., Tocher D.R., Castro L.F.

2016. Scientific Reports, 6: 20510.
To bind or not to bind: the taxonomic scope of nuclear receptor mediated endocrine disruption in invertebrate phyla

Castro L.F.C., Santos M.M.

2014Environmental Science and Technology, 48(10): 5361-5363