Phylogenetics and evolutionary biology

The Mitochondrial genome (mtDNA) is one of the most information-rich molecular markers in phylogenetics, because of its relative small length and an almost constant gene content. MtDNAs may differ both in nucleotide sequence and in the relative position of genes within the molecule (i.e. gene arrangement). In fact, two phylogenetic approaches to the use of whole mtDNA data have been proposed so far, i.e. phylogenies based on shared genome rearrangements, and phylogenies based on whole genome sequencing. We approach Mollusca and Insecta phylogenetics by analyzing selected genes and the whole mtDNA.

In Mollusca, our main research interest is in reconstructing the bivalves’ Tree of Life. We approach this either using single gene markers (including mitochondrial and nuclear ones), as well as whole mtDNA sequences.

In Insecta, we focus our research activity in stick insects (Phasmida). We either approach phylogenetic relationships of Phasmida with lower pteryogote insects, as well as patterns of microevolution and reproductive biology of this amazing group. Actually, the unusual reproductive features of stick insect, including parthenogenesis, hybridogenesis and androgenesis, make them also a model of choice to address microevolutionary patterns, and such tangled reproductive interactions leads to the complex phyletic relationships known as “reticulate evolution”.