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Evolutionary Ecology of Individual Differences


Variation among individuals within populations is the fuel of evolution. To understand how life evolves, it is therefore necessary to study what generates variation, what maintains, and what reduces it. Natural selection reduces variation. However, any biologist who spends a bit of time observing the natural world will note the great diversity of individuals that make up any given population. It is now known that individuals differ in their morphology, their behaviour, their physiology, their phenology and their life history. The maintenance of such diversity in populations exposed to natural selection is still puzzling for biologists.

In our laboratory we are interested in the importance of individual differences in an ecological and evolutionary context. More particularly we study the implications of personality differences, or the consistent behavioural differences observed among individuals, on the ecology and evolution of the population over a short time scale. We examine what makes individuals different, for example their genetic differences, the influence of their parents or conspecifics on their development, and the environment that they experience early in their life. We analyze how these behaviours are associated with each other and with other traits. We finally explore how individual differences lead to different reproductive output or a different survival, and how these differences can translate into genetic changes over time or can maintain the behavioural diversity in the population.

Le Dilemme de la Gazelle

available now in France and soon in Quebec.

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Recent Publications


Linking genetic, morphological, and behavioural divergence between inland island and mainland deer mice.

Joshua M. Miller, Dany Garant, Charles Perrier, Tristan Juette, Joël W. Jameson, Eric Normandeau, Louis Bernatchez & Denis Réale. Ecology and Evolution. Heredity


Bacterial microbiota similarity between predators and prey in a blue tit trophic network.

Hélène Dion-Phénix, Anne Charmantier, Christophe de Franceschi, Geneviève Bourret, Steven W Kembel, Denis Réale.

The ISME Journal.

News from the Lab


PhD Project


Applications sought for a PhD project on "habitat use and individual features in three populations of blue tits living in contrasting habitats”

Deadline for applications: January 1st 2023

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The blue-tit team is in Corsica. After two years of absence caused by the pandemic, students from my lab, Hélène Dion-Phénix (MSc) Gabrielle Gingras and François-Xavier Habimana (BSc), are back in Corsica with the rest of the team to find the blue tits.

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American Naturalist


A new paper by Elouana Gharnit has just appeared in the prestigious journal American Naturalist. She presents her thesis results on the individual niche specialization of chipmunks.

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