Recent activity

PHD on the phylogenetics and phylogeography of petrels

vincent bretagnolle, May 20, 2015

Context: The phylogeography of many seabird species remains poorly known. They are highly mobile organisms supposedly free from geographical barriers to dispersal, which should theoretically prevent population differentiation through isolation. However, population differentiation within a species can be significant despite high mobility (Friesen et al. 2007). Many species of seabirds are highly philopatric, partially or completely removing the effects of dispersion. Petrels (family Procellariidae) are among those species. Despite a large number ecological studies on petrels, little is known of their phylogenetic relationships and their phylogeography, and many taxonomic issues are yet to be resolved. The overall objective of the proposed project is to study the phylogenetic and phylogeographic characteristics of the Procellariidae to better describe their current distribution, and attempt to characterize the population differentiation processes that took place among species in this family. From a large collection of field and museum samples (genetic samples of nearly 4,000 individuals from 44 different species; morphological data from 12,000 museum specimens already available) and behavioral data (vocalization data for most species), the aim of this PhD project will be to improve our understanding of procellariid evolution and biogeography by selecting a few emblematic case studies (eg. Speciation radiation in Pterodroma genus; species complex or super species in either Pterodroma or Puffinus) and by expanding already available data sets. For instance, whether retained ancestral genetic variation is masking contemporary barriers to gene flow, and how past population bottleneck contribute to contemporary genetic structure, could be evaluated using coalescent-based methods. This work will be strongly anchored in conservation biology, since half of the petrel species are currently threatened.

Reference: Friesen VL, Burg TM, McCoy KD (2007) Mechanisms of population differentiation in seabirds. Molecular Ecology 16(9):1765-1785 DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.03197.x

A few relevant papers from our labs: Gangloff B, Shirihai H, Watling D, Cruaud C, Couloux A, Tillier A, Pasquet E, Bretagnolle V (2012) The complete phylogeny of Pseudobulweria, the most endangered seabird genus: systematics, species status and conservation implications. Conservation Genetics 13(1): 39-52. doi 10.1007/s10592-011-0261-6 Gangloff B, Zino F, Shirihai H, González-Solís J, Couloux A, Pasquet E, Bretagnolle V. (2013) The evolution of north-east Atlantic gadfly petrels using statistical phylogeography. Molecular Ecology 22(2):495-507. doi: 10.1111/mec.12119 Genovart, M., Thibault, JC, Igual, JM, Bauza-Ribot, M., Rabouam, C & Bretagnolle, V. (2013). Population Structure and Dispersal Patterns within and between Atlantic and Mediterranean Populations of a Large-Range Pelagic Seabird. PLOS ONE 8, e70711 Pante E, Puillandre N, Viricel A*, Arnaud-Haond S, Aurelle D, Castelin M, Chenuil A, Destombe C, Forcioli D, Valero M, Viard F, Samadi S (2015) Species are hypotheses: avoid connectivity assessments based on pillars of sand. Molecular Ecology 24(3): 525-544 (∗ contributed equally) doi: 10.1111/mec.13048

About the Chizé Research Center and the University of La Rochelle: The successful applicant with work with Vincent Bretagnolle at the “Centre d’Etudes Biologiques de Chizé” (CEBC) and Eric Pante at the “Littoral, Environnement et Sociétés” laboratory (LIENSs). The CEBC is a dynamic research environment focusing on the ecology of wild animals in their natural habitat; LIENSs is a one-of-a-kind multi-disciplinary lab which researchers (biologists, chemists, geologists, historians…) interact to better understand the littoral environment. Both are research units of the University of La Rochelle and the CNRS. For more information: University of La Rochelle: CEBC: LIENSs:

Applicants should have: - a masters degree in a relevant field - experience with molecular laboratory techniques - molecular work on museum samples will be a must - experience with phylogenetics and phylogeography, and excellent background knowledge in evolutionary biology below, at and above the species level We are looking for a highly motivated individual eager to work in a group setting, but capable of autonomous work. The envisioned project will make use of a unique collection of rare Petrel tissue samples, and we are therefore looking for someone skilled in the lab, tenacious, and able to trouble-shoot problem with museum samples.

How to apply: Please send (1) a CV with your publication record, a list of skills relevant to the project, and contact information for two academic references, and (2) a one-page cover letter. Please send your application before 25/5/2015 to Eric Pante ( or Vincent Bretagnolle ( Please contact us shall you have any question about the project.