Flight is one of the most fascinating coevolution between morphological and behavioral traits, attracting the curiosity of both biologists and physicists. This remarkably complex phenotype likely played an important role in the diversification of flying animals in providing ecological opportunities inaccessible to most other taxa. But how did flying animals diversify?
My work is at the interface between evolutionary biology and biomechanics, aiming to understand the selective and mechanistic forces underpinning the diversity of flight, focusing particularly on insects.
I obtained my PhD in evolutionary biology at the Natural History Museum of Paris, France. Throughout my thesis, I studied wing shape and flight diversification in the iconic Amazonian butterfly genus Morpho. I performed an extensive bibliographical work to assess the importance of adaptive processes in the diversification of butterfly wing morphology and associated flight behaviors (Adaptive evolution of butterfly wing shape: from morphology to behaviour (2019)). I then conducted an original study taking advantage of natural variation in wing damage to test how the loss of different wing parts affects flight performance, highlighting aerodynamic constraints acting on wing morphology (Effects of natural wing damage on flight performance in Morpho butterflies: what can it tell us about wing shape evolution? (2019)). My main study however focused on the influence of habitat use on the diversification of wing shape and flap-gliding flight behavior, involving extended field work in Amazonia and collaboration with aerospace engineers to test the effect of wing shape variation on gliding performance using Computational Fluid Dynamics simulations (Gliding in the Amazonian canopy: adaptive evolution of flight in Morpho butterflies (2021)). Lastly, I investigated the ecological factors enabling coexistence among closely related Morpho species, combining behavioral experiments in the wild with population genomic analyses (Convergent morphology and divergent phenology: unravelling the coexistence of mimetic Morpho butterfly species (2020)).
I currently work as a postdoc in the Experimental Zoology Group of Wageningen University, the Netherlands. Here, I address flight diversification at large phylogenetic scale, focusing on the order Diptera (flies, mosquitoes and relatives). I quantify the morphological and biomechanical diversity of Dipteran flyers, in order to investigate its evolution in a phylogenetic framework. Through this project, I hope to extend our knowledge of the morphology/flight kinematics diversity in insects, and to disentangle the evolutionary forces (i.e., phylogenetic history versus selective processes) underlying the diversification of Dipteran flyers.