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Evolutionary Ecology - EE
MITE2: Multidisciplinary Investigation Targeting Ecology and Evolution

João Picão Osório

Junior Researcher

Evolution and Development Quantitative Genetics Behaviour

My main scientific interests lie on the mechanisms of how phenotypes are generated and evolve. During my PhD (2010-2015) and first postdoctoral (2015-2017) research in the group of Claudio R. Alonso at the University of Sussex, UK, I tackled questions on the role of RNA regulation for neuronal development and behaviour in Drosophila melanogaster. Using an interdisciplinary approach combining molecular biology, developmental genetics and neurobehaviour, I discovered: (i) molecular mechanisms on Hox RNA processing and its impact on neural specification, (ii) fundamental and pervasive roles of small non-coding RNAs (microRNAs) in the control of locomotor behaviour.
I did my second postdoctoral (2017-2023) work as a Marie Curie fellow in the laboratory of Marie-Anne Félix at the Institute of Biology of the École Normale Supérieure/CNRS, Paris, France. Here, I turned my research to the mechanisms of morphological evolution. For this, I used a new model organism, the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and related species, focusing on the vulva as a cellular and developmental system. Using an original approach integrating quantitative genetics, developmental genetics, genomics and genome editing, I established a novel molecular genetics logic to explain fast phenotypic evolutionary rates based on a broader mutational target size rather than high mutational rates. Second, I led a long and ambitious project on the role of developmental genetic constraints in shaping evolutionary rates of morphological variation at single-cell level, at micro- and macro-evolutionary scales. Our results show the fundamental finding that evolution of developmental genetic constraints explain – and can predict – millions of years of evolutionary rates across nematode taxa.
I am currently a Marie Curie researcher in the Evolutionary Ecology group kindly hosted by Sara Magalhães to uncover the roles and mechanisms of developmental biases in behavioural evolution of nematodes. Additionally, I am an Invited Assistant Professor in Neurobiology and Animal Developmental Biology at the Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon.


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