In community genetics, the fields of community ecology and population and
quantitative genetics meet. Species, populations and individuals not only adapt
to the abiotic environment, but also to changes in the species composition and
related changes in the relative contribution of those species to the community.
This interplay between species can result in interesting genetic dynamics that
are crucial to understand how changes in the environment are affecting the
Human induced changes of natural habitats force many species to adapt to new
environmental conditions. This will primarily target ecological relevant traits
and result in locally adapted populations. Genes important for ecological
adaptation are often unique within species or clusters of related species, and
are called “Orphan genes”. Unravelling the cues that triggers localized
adaptation, the required adaptations and the corresponding changes in the
genome is important to understand whether species can adapt to the new
environment, and whether there are limits to local adaptation.
Modularity in genetic architecture
When two physiological pathways affect the same two traits, such that
pleiotropic effect are positive in the first pathway and negative in the
second, the relative contribution of both pathways in crucial for explaining
the relation between the two traits. This modularity is more and more
recognized as an important explanatory mechanism in cases where a difference in
the environment results in opposite genetic correlations between two traits.
The main challenge is to develop new methods and techniques to unravel the
influence of those different pathways on the realised phenotype of the
Life-history traits are important factors for many aspects of biology and
ecology. Understanding the origin and effect of life-history variation within
and among species is an important aspect for unravelling the dynamics of
communities and populations in response to changes in the environment.
When an environment changes, species can either adapt or go extinct. What
causes that difference? Why can one species adapt to the changing environment
and goes the other extinct? Knowing which characteristics of the different
species are responsible for the presence or absence of that species will
increase our understanding of the changes in biodiversity and how we can
prevent extinction of those species.
Sexual size dimorphism
In most species, males and females differ in size. In most groups, males are
more variable in size than females. The allometry for sexual size dimorphism
(SSD) found in many (but not all) taxonomic groups, has led to the formulation
of Rensch's rule: SSD increases with increasing body size when males are the
larger sex but decreases with increasing body size when females are the larger
sex. Several mechanisms have been proposed to explain this pattern, but none of
those has the generality that is needed to explain a pattern that is so general
present across the animal kingdom. The big question is what mechanism explains
this general available pattern.