ADAPT Ancient DNA studies of Adaptive Processes through Time

generously funded by a European Society for Evolutionary Biology (ESEB) Special Topics Network (STN).

ADAPT website:

Evolution is typically a process rather than an event, and as such progresses over time and is thus best studied by sampling time series data, rather than sampling at a single time point. However, the timescales of many evolutionary processes are greater than the lifespans of those of us studying them. Therefore, evolutionary genetics studies would be well served by retrospectively sampling across evolutionary timescales by using ancient DNA (aDNA) techniques. Our proposed Special Topic Network would bring together leaders in the field of aDNA laboratory work; developers of new data analyses tools for handling the peculiarities of genomic sequence data from ancient samples and time-series data; and empiricists working with time-series samples that would benefit from the application of these ancient DNA protocols.

A potential shortcoming of evolutionary studies that use contemporary data for detecting natural selection acting on advantageous alleles is that the statistical methods have poor sensitivity and temporal resolution and will be confounded by changes in ecological conditions, geographic distribution, rates of introgressive gene flow and population size, all of which could have influenced the strength and consistency of selection and the progress of adaptation. Current attempts to infer both historical selection and demography jointly are either limited to very simple models of past demography or suffer from strong assumptions about the strength of selection and distribution of beneficial mutations.

Long-term time series data have the benefit of being able to estimate effective population size through time using neutral markers and identify the timing relative to ecological change, the tempo and chronology of changes in allele frequencies and sites known to be the targets of natural selection during ecological shifts. Given the temporal aspect of adaptation and speciation, ancient DNA (aDNA) techniques are an obvious and promising tool with which to track the progress of natural selection’s effect upon the genome using time-series data.

While recent ESEB and SMBE conferences have facilitated individual talks and even symposia on paleogenomic studies of evolution, the ADAPT Special Topic Network will allow more focused interactions within specialist areas, integrating across the sub-disciplines that this field encompasses. The key disciplines we will build a dialogue among, are those specialising in the development of methods and theory that utilise time-series datasets; those developing lab methods for aDNA extraction, library build and sequencing; and those working on key systems for the empirical study of evolution, for which time-series data exist, but require a palaeogenomics approach to unlock their potential. Interaction across these inter-related disciplines will allow the merging of the individual specialised fields into an innovative pipeline for studying evolution using ancient DNA.

By holding a series of connected events, this will allow the application of methods developed and progression based upon the lessons learned. We anticipate that this format will maximise the benefit to the community of evolutionary biologists within Europe and further afield.

Plans for the first two years of operation of the STN include two workshops, two training courses (one on labwork, one on bioinformatics specific to palaeogenomics) and a symposium at either the joint Evolution meeting or the 2019 congress.

More information is available at the ADAPT website:


Assoc. Prof. Andrew FootePicture Dr. Andrew Foote
Department of Natural History

NTNU University Museum

Erling Skakkes gate
7491 Trondheim

Asst. Prof. Anna-Sapfo MalaspinasAsst.Picture Prof. Anna-Sapfo Malaspinas
University of Bern,
Baltzerstrasse 6
3012 Bern

Assoc. Prof. Eline LorenzenPicture Assoc. Prof. Eline Lorenzen
Natural History Museum of Denmark
The University of Copenhagen
Øster Voldgade 5-7
1350 Copenhagen

Prof. Love DalénPicture Prof. Love Dalén
Dept. of Bioinformatics and Genetics
Swedish Museum Natural History
Box 50007
10405 Stockholm

Asst. Prof. María C. Ávila-ArcosPicture Asst. Prof. María C. Ávila-Arcos
International Laboratory for
Human Genome Research
National Autonomous University of Mexico
Mexico City

Dr. Marie LouisPicture Dr. Marie Louis
Scottish Oceans Institute
University of St Andrews
East Sands
St Andrews
KY16 8LB
United Kingdom

Dr. Matteo FumagalliPicture Dr. Matteo Fumagalli
Department of Life Sciences
Silwood Park campus
Imperial College London
Buckhurst Road
Ascot, SL5 7PY
United Kingdom

Prof. Ole SeehausenPicture Prof. Ole Seehausen
Institute of Ecology & Evolution
University of Bern
Baltzerstrasse 6
3012 Bern

Department Fish Ecology & Evolution
Eawag, Center for Ecology, Evolution and Biogeochemistry
Seestrasse 79
6047 Kastanienbaum

Assoc. Prof. Michael D. MartinPicture Assoc. Prof. Michael D. Martin
Department of Natural History
NTNU University Museum
Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)
7491 Trondheim

Prof. M. Thomas P. GilbertPicture Prof M Thomas P Gilbert
Section for Evolutionary Genomics
Natural History Museum of Denmark
The University of Copenhagen
Øster Voldgade 5-7
1350 Copenhagen

ICREA Prof. Tomas Marques-BonetPicture Prof. Tomas Marques-Bonet
Director Institut Evolutionary Biology (CSIC-UPF)
Aiguader 88

Asst. Prof. Nina Overgaard TherkildsenPicture Asst. Prof. Nina Overgaard Therkildsen
Department of Natural Resources
Cornell University
208 Fernow Hall
NY-14853 Ithaca

Dr. Jennifer A. JacksonPicture Dr. Jennifer A. Jackson
British Antarctic Survey
High Cross
Madingley Road
Cambridge CB3 0ET
United Kingdom

Prof. Daniel WegmannPicture Prof. Daniel Wegmann
Department of Biology
University of Fribourg
Chemin du Musée 10
1700 Fribourg