Stochastic Models for the Inference of Life Evolution

SMILE | Stochastic Models for the Inference of Life Evolution | Collège de France


SMILE is an interdisciplinary research group gathering mathematicians, bio-informaticians and biologists.
SMILE is affiliated to the Institut de Biologie de l'ENS, in Paris.
SMILE is hosted within the CIRB (Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Biology) at Collège de France.
SMILE is supported by Collège de France and CNRS.
Visit also our homepage at CIRB.


SMILE is hosted at Collège de France in the Latin Quarter of Paris. To reach us, go to 11 place Marcelin Berthelot (stations Luxembourg or Saint-Michel on RER B).
Our working spaces are rooms 107, 121 and 122 on first floor of building B1 (ask us for the code). Building B1 is facing you upon exiting the traversing hall behind Champollion's statue.


You can reach us by email (amaury.lambert - at - ; (guillaume.achaz - at - or (smile - at -

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How Ecology and Landscape Dynamics Shape Phylogenetic Trees

Whether biotic or abiotic factors are the dominant drivers of clade diversification is a long-standing question in evolutionary biology. The ubiquitous patterns of phylogenetic imbalance and branching slowdown have been taken as supporting the role of ecological niche filling and spatial heterogeneity in ecological features, and thus of biotic processes, in diversification. However, a proper theoretical assessment of the relative roles of biotic and abiotic factors in macroevolution requires models that integrate both types of factors, and such models have been lacking. In this study, we use an individual-based model to investigate the temporal patterns of diversification driven by ecological speciation in a stochastically fluctuating geographic landscape. The model generates phylogenies whose shape evolves as the clade ages. Stabilization of tree shape often occurs after ecological saturation, revealing species turnover caused by competition and demographic stochasticity. In the initial phase of diversification (allopatric radiation into an empty landscape), trees tend to be unbalanced and branching slows down. As diversification proceeds further due to landscape dynamics, balance and branching tempo may increase and become positive. Three main conclusions follow. First, the phylogenies of ecologically saturated clades do not always exhibit branching slowdown. Branching slowdown requires that competition be wide or heterogeneous across the landscape, or that the characteristics of landscape dynamics vary geographically. Conversely, branching acceleration is predicted under narrow competition or frequent local catastrophes. Second, ecological heterogeneity does not necessarily cause phylogenies to be unbalanced--short time in geographical isolation or frequent local catastrophes may lead to balanced trees despite spatial heterogeneity. Conversely, unbalanced trees can emerge without spatial heterogeneity, notably if competition is wide. Third, short isolation time causes a radically different and quite robust pattern of phylogenies that are balanced and yet exhibit branching slowdown. In conclusion, biotic factors have a strong and diverse influence on the shape of phylogenies of ecologically saturating clades and create the evolutionary template in which branching slowdown and tree imbalance may occur. However, the contingency of landscape dynamics and resource distribution can cause wide variation in branching tempo and tree balance. Finally, considerable variation in tree shape among simulation replicates calls for caution when interpreting variation in the shape of real phylogenies.



Cultural transmission of reproductive success impacts genomic diversity, coalescent tree topologies and demographic inferences

Cultural Transmission of Reproductive Success (CTRS) has been observed in many human populations as well as other animals. It consists in a positive correlation of non-genetic origin between the progeny size of parents and children. This correlation can result from various factors, such as the social influence of parents on their children, the increase of children{\textquoteright}s survival through allocare from uncle and aunts, or the transmission of resources. Here, we study the evolution of genomic diversity through time under CTRS. We show that CTRS has a double impact on population genetics: (1) effective population size decreases when CTRS starts, mimicking a population contraction, and increases back to its original value when CTRS stops; (2) coalescent trees topologies are distorted under CTRS, with higher imbalance and higher number of polytomies. Under long-lasting CTRS, effective population size stabilises but the distortion of tree topology remains, which yields U-shaped Site Frequency Spectra (SFS) under constant population size. We show that this CTRS{\textquoteright} impact yields a bias in SFS-based demographic inference. Considering that CTRS was detected in numerous human and animal populations worldwide, one should be cautious that inferring population past histories from genomic data can be biased by this cultural process.

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