Keys to evolutionary success: untangling drivers of hyperdiversification

Explaining why some taxa are more diversified than their closest relatives remains one of the major challenges in evolutionary biology. However, much of Earth’s biodiversity is concentrated in few diverse non-vertebrate animal lineages, whose analysis of diversification dynamics is hampered by the lack of empirical data.
The HYPERDIVERSE project will focus on one hyperdiverse and poorly-known taxon of molluscs, the marine predators Neogastropoda. Their high species diversity (>15,000 species), largely undescribed, and the key innovations they evolved, linked to their feeding habits and dispersal abilities, make them a perfect model system to test hypotheses related to the diversification of hyperdiverse taxa. The first objective of the project will be to reconstruct a robust, precise and complete phylogeny of the group by using cutting-edge omic technologies.
The second goal will be to test correlations between two traits – the exogenome diversity as proxy of feeding habits, and the type of larval development as a proxy of dispersal capabilities, which are keys for understanding diversification dynamics, using genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic approaches.
The same data will also be used to fulfil the last objective: identifying the genetic determinants of the two traits, the molecular mechanisms at the origin of their diversity, and the processes by which these traits interact with the environment to mediate the diversification of the neogastropods. The major breakthrough of the project will thus rely on the joint analysis of the correlation between traits and diversification and of the causal factors at the origin of this correlation. Furthermore, the project will also impact other fields of research, with the production of unique data on many culturally, economically and scientifically important species, including the first complete genomes for the group, and the characterization of numerous compounds potentially promising in human therapeutics and biotechnologies.

This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement No 865101). It is hosted by the MNHN, Paris, France.