We are a research institute working to understand the evolutionary mechanisms that generate biodiversity and to promote its conservation.

The Institute of Evolutionary Biology (IBE) is dedicated to understanding the mechanisms that generate biodiversity and the genetic basis of evolution. Our work is helping to unravel how evolution works and to translate discoveries into new ways to conserve biodiversity.

Founded in 2008, the IBE is a unique partnership between the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Pompeu Fabra University (UPF). It brings together more than 120 people and 25 research groups distributed in 5 scientific programs on Evolutionary Biology research.

Scientific highlights


Smelling in the dark: into the nose of a subterranean beetle

IBE researchers led by Rosa Fernández have shed light on the genomic basis of chemoreception in cave-dwelling invertebrates, paving the road towards understanding the genomic underpinnings of adaptation to the subterranean lifestyle at a deeper level.
Article: Balart-García, P., Cieslak, A., Escuer, P., Rozas, J., Ribera, I. and Fernández, R. (2021). Smelling in the dark: Phylogenomic insights into the chemosensory system of a subterranean beetle. Molecular Ecology, 30(11): 2573-2590.

Figure caption: Image of the cave-dwelling coleopteran S. longicornis, which has an optimized chemosensory repertoire adapted to the deep subterranean environment. Credit: C. Vanderbergh

Pyrenean desman genome sheds light on inbreeding impact: the invisible threat of endangered species

An IBE team led by Jose Castresana sheds light on the effects that population bottlenecks and strong isolation have left in the Pyrenean desman (Galemys pyrenaicus) genome. This endangered mammal, only present in the Iberian Peninsula, poses a case study on how isolation-driven inbreeding - mating between closely related individuals - can threaten endangered species.
Article: Escoda, L. and Castresana, J. (2021). The genome of the Pyrenean desman and the effects of bottlenecks and inbreeding on the genomic landscape of an endangered species. Evolutionary Applications, 14(7): 1898-1913.

Figure caption: Effect of inbreeding on genome-wide heterozygosity of two Pyrenean desmans. Credit: Lidia Escoda and Jose Castresana

The evolution of mammals reveals 2,000 new genes key to longevity in humans

A research team led by IBE researcher Arcadi Navarro has identified more than 2,000 new genes linked to human longevity from an evolutionary perspective. The comparative genomic study, including 57 species of mammals, opens the door to developing new therapeutic targets to treat diseases associated with ageing in humans.
Article: Farré X., Molina R., Barteri F., Timmers P.R.H.J., Joshi P.K., Oliva B., Acosta, S., Esteve-Altava B., Navarro A., Muntané G. (2021). Comparative analysis of mammal genomes unveils key genomic variability for human lifespan. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 38(11): 4948-4961.

Figure caption: Image via pxhere of public domain with licence CC0.

Drosophila Evolution over Space and Time: A New Population Genomics Resource

In this study co-led by IBE researcher Josefa González, whole-genome sequencing of Drosophila melanogaster - densely sampled through time and space - provides insights into the worldwide evolutionary history, varying selection, and local adaptations of fruit flies.
Article: Kapun M., Nunez J. C. B., Bogaerts-Marquez M., (...), Petrov D., Schmidt P., Gonzalez J., Flatt T., Bergland A. O. (2021) Drosophila Evolution over Space and Time (DEST): A New Population Genomics Resource; Mol Biol Evol. 38(12): 5782-5805.

Figure caption: The study was the cover of MBE journal. Artwork Credit: Roberto Torres.

Synthetic biology reinvents development

An IBE research team led by Ricard Solé has used synthetic biology to develop a new type of genetic design based on the E. coli bacteria model that can reproduce some of the key processes that enable creating structures in natural systems, from termite nests to the development of embryos.
Article: Duran-Nebreda S., Pla J., Vidiella B., Piñero J., Conde-Pueyo N., Solé R. (2021). Synthetic Lateral Inhibition in Periodic Pattern Forming Microbial Colonies. ACS Synth. Biol. 10(2): 277–285.

Figure caption: Petri dish with the bacteria E. coli forming patterns induced by the new synthetic system. Credit Ricard Solé.

A study points to the possibility of inducing critical states in living cells

A multidisciplinary team led by IBE researcher Ricard Solé has managed to create a genetic circuit that allows living cells to reach critical states, stimulating new patterns of behaviour. The study may help to better understand the origin of cognition, and even improve the administration of drugs against tumours.
Article: Vidiella B., Guillamon A., Sardanyés J., Maull V., Pla J., Conde N., Solé R. (2021). Engineering self-organized criticality in living cells. Nature Communications 12: 4415.

Figure caption: The new genetic circuit allows cells to reach critical states. Credit: Ricard Solé.

New genetic tools to unravel the origin of animals

A research team led by IBE researchers Elena Casacuberta and Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo has developed stable transfection together with additional genetic tools for a new lineage of the unicellular eukaryotes closest to animals, Corallochytrea. These advances will help to understand the evolution towards the origin of animals from a cell biological perspective. Moreover, the authors took advantage of stable transfection to describe the life cycle of Corallochytrium limacisporum, which turned to be non-linear and with a decoupled cellular and nuclear division.
Article: Kożyczkowska A., Najle S. R. , Ocaña-Pallarès E., Aresté C., Shabardina V., Ara P. S., Ruiz-Trillo I., Casacuberta E. (2021). Stable transfection in the protist Corallochytrium limacisporum allows identification of novel cellular features among unicellular relatives of animals. Current Biology 31(18):4104-4110.e5.

Figure caption: C. limacisporum cells before and after the completion of cytokinesis (with labeling of plasma membrane and nuclei). Right: Cell before completion of cell division. Left: Two cells after cytokinesis is completed. Credit: Elena Casacuberta and Iñaki Ruiz-Trillo.

The private life of the mayfly revealed, beyond fleeting sex

A research team led by IBE researcher Xavier Bellés has discovered the molecular mechanism hidden behind the mayfly’s mysterious transition to adulthood. The study reveals that mayflies moult once more after metamorphosis, which allows them to complete morphological development, as well as to reach sexual maturity and reproduce efficiently during their last hours of life.
Article: Kamsoi O., Ventos-Alfonso A., Casares F., Almudi I., Belles X. (2021). Regulation of metamorphosis in neopteran insects is conserved in the paleopteran Cloeon dipterum (Ephemeroptera). PNAS, 118(34): e2105272118.

Figure caption: A mayfly. Credit: Erik Karits, via Unsplash.

The origin and uniqueness of Basque genetics revealed

An international study led by IBE researcher David Comas has revealed that the genetic uniqueness of the Basque population is not due to its external origin with respect to other Iberian populations, but reduced contacts after the Iron Age. The multidisciplinary team proposes the cultural language barrier as a possible explanation for the isolation and the genetic substructure of the Basque population.
Article: Flores-Bello A., Bauduer F., Salaberria J., Oyharçabal B., Calafell F., Bertranpetit J., Quintana-Murci L., Comas D. (2021). Genetic origins, singularity, and heterogeneity of Basques. Curr Biol. 31(10):2167-2177.e4.

Figure caption: Colour representation of the genetic mix and structure in the Basque Country; green symbolizes the Basques, while blue and red show mixing with adjacent populations. Credit: André Flores-Bello.

Intrinsic relationship between intronic regulatory elements and the functional commitment of tissues revealed

It is well known that regulatory elements (RE) controlling gene expression are widespread distributed throughout the genome. However, it remains unclear how this distribution is associated to the needs of a tissue-specific gene expression. In this article, a team led by IBE researcher Sandra Acosta identifies an intrinsic relationship between intronic RE and the functional commitment of tissues.
Article: Borsari B., Villegas-Mirón P., Pérez-Lluch S., Turpin I., Laayouni H., Segarra-Casas A., Bertranpetit J., Guigó R., Acosta S. (2021). Enhancers with tissue-specific activity are enriched in intronic regions. Genome Research 31(8):1325-1336.

Figure caption: Common enhancers to all tissues are preferentially located in intergenic regions, while tissue-specific enhancers are more often located in introns, specially for tissue with an elevated degree of specialization such as the muscle and the brain.

The year in numbers

Our community

Total members
0 Women
0 Men
Foreign researchers
2 Consolidator Grants
2 Starting Grants
Total Women Men
Principal investigators 25 5 20
Postdoctoral researchers 19 8 11
Predoctoral researchers 38 17 21
Support personnel 34 28 6
Administration 8 6 2
Scientific staff
0 Women
Led by IBE researchers
Corresponding author
Q1 Publications
SJR 2021
National and International ongoing research projects
Private contracts
New competitive funds raised in 2021
2.15 million €
million €
250,000 €
Theses defended
Undergraduate and master students trained
IBE Seminars
PhD Symposium

Communications & outreach

News published
on IBE website
Press releases
IBE web page views
Increase from 2020
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Target audience reached
of broadcasted
Visualizations of
online educational and
outreach contents
Participation in activities
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