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An interdisciplinary study of arthropod moulting: linking genotype, phenotype and life history evolution

Applicant Robinson-Rechavi Marc
Number 198691
Funding scheme Sinergia
Research institution Département d'Ecologie et d'Evolution Faculté de Biologie et de Médecine Université de Lausanne
Institution of higher education University of Lausanne - LA
Main discipline Interdisciplinary
Start/End 01.03.2021 - 28.02.2025
Approved amount 3'103'660.00
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All Disciplines (5)

Embryology, Developmental Biology

Keywords (3)

genome evolution; evolution; transcriptomics

Lay Summary (French)

Pour comprendre la diversité des arthropodes nous allons combiner paléontologie, zoologie, biologie du développement, génomique et bioinformatique, en nous focalisant sur une étape clé de leur cycle de vie : la mue.
Lay summary

Les arthropodes sont des animaux caractérisés par un corps segmenté et un exosquelette. Ils sont le groupe (phylum) le plus divers d’animaux sur Terre, avec plus d’un million d’espèces et une énorme diversité de morphologies, de niches écologiques, et de modes de vie. Ils incluent notamment les insectes, les crabes, les scorpions, ou les araignées. C’est par la mue que les arthropodes grandissent, mais aussi changent de forme ou d’organes. Comprendre l’évolution de la mue des arthropodes permettra donc de mieux comprendre la diversité et le succès de ces animaux.

Pour ce faire, nous allons étudier la mue des arthropodes par une combinaison d’approches issues de différentes disciplines scientifiques : l’évolution de sa régulation génétique grâce à la génomique et la bioinformatique, la relation entre mue, génétique et mode de vie ou écologie grâce à la zoologie et la biologie du développement, et l’évolution des formes de mue dans l’histoire évolutive des arthropodes grâce à la paléontologie et la phylogénie. Nous construirons une base de données qui permettra de combiner et étudier ensemble toutes ces sources d’informations. Finalement, nous allons étudier comment les arthropodes se sont adaptés à un environnement terrestre (plutôt que marin dont ils sont originaires) plusieurs fois, via l’angle des changements nécessaires dans leur mue.

Comprendre la mue et son contrôle hormonal et génétique permettra de mieux comprendre l’impact des perturbateurs endocriniens, et pourra aider au contrôle d’espèces nuisibles en agriculture ou pour des raisons médicales

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 03.12.2020

Responsible applicant and co-applicants


Project partner

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
167276 Efficient and accurate comparative genomics to make sense of high volume low quality data in biology 01.04.2017 NRP 75 Big Data
167149 Bio-SODA: Enabling Complex, Semantic Queries to Bioinformatics Databases through Intuitive Searching over Data 01.04.2017 NRP 75 Big Data
202669 Genomic innovations underlying arthropod success and diversity 01.09.2021 SNSF Professorships
173048 The evolution of function in organs and genes in light of expression patterns 01.02.2018 Project funding (Div. I-III)
170664 Exploiting evolutionary signatures to build an enhanced understanding of gene function 01.09.2017 SNSF Professorships
179084 Arthropod Evolution during the Ordovician Radiation: Insights from the Fezouata Biota 01.06.2018 Project funding (Div. I-III)


Arthropods are the most diverse phylum on Earth, inhabiting virtually all ecosystems and playing important roles in the natural environment as well as in agriculture and human health. Their segmented body plans allow modularity and evolvability, with a spectacularly large variety of life histories. Their exoskeleton imposes periodic moults, but also provides opportunities for specialisation or plasticity. Thus moulting is both a key step in each arthropod’s life history, and a key to understanding arthropod diversity.This project brings together researchers with complementary expertise to address three main goals unified through the theme of arthropod moulting as a key life history trait. The first is to establish broad evolutionary trends across groups of extant and extinct arthropods by building and analysing a comprehensive compendium of arthropod moulting characteristics. The second main goal is to determine how moulting modes observed today evolved from ancient diversity. The comparisons aim to define which aspects -in terms of genes and pathways or networks and the biological processes they control- of moulting are ancestral versus derived, to then relate these to ecological changes and species diversifications and trace the evolutionary paths of moulting. This leads to the final goal focusing specifically on the evolutionary flexibility of moulting and its role in arthropod terrestrialisation events.Overview of approachWe will compile currently dispersed knowledge from all relevant fields (paleontology to genomics) in an integrated database, MoultDB, covering a large number and variety of species, from which we will establish broad trends in the characteristics and evolution of moulting in arthropods. This will also answer the first goal, and serve as a foundation for the other project goals. We will then generate genomes and moulting transcriptomes in diverse arthropods. Comparative analysis of these data, guided by re-analysis of paleontological and phylogenetic trends, will allow us to answer the second goal. Building on outcomes from the first two goals, we will compare moulting characteristics (extant and extinct), as well as genetic and molecular processes that direct moulting, in terrestrial versus aquatic taxa to learn how moulting plasticity could have facilitated or constrained these transitions.Expected outcomesWe expect to obtain a much improved understanding of the evolutionary and functional mechanisms which underpin arthropod diversity and adaptation, both in the broad picture and in specific examples. The integration of different data and expertise will shed new light on existing fossils, and allow better interpretation of genomic and functional data. MoultDB will provide important resources for the community and future research, and set an example of integrating paleontological, morphological and genomic data together. Finally, this project will provide the impetus for more and better integration of different approaches to biodiversity in future studies, by these groups and others.