Behavioural Ecology and Endocrinology

We are a group of researchers connected by a same fascination, the study of animal behaviour. We combine an evolutionary ecology perspective with the study of the proximal physiological mechanisms that underpin evolutionary adaptations. This multidisciplinary approach allows us a more integrative understanding of evolutionary processes and also provides us with useful physiological tools to assess individual and population fitness. This kind of quantitative information is a basic need in the assessment of the effect of human activities on organisms, and allows us to monitor the threats posed by global change threats to the conservation of animal populations.

Lines of research:

1) Adaptation to the urban environment: behaviour and physiology of birds.

2) Effects of egg hormones in bird development, behaviour and physiology.


Department of Evolutionary Ecology

National Museum of Natural History

Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

C/ José Gutiérrez Abascal 2

28006 Madrid Spain

Tel: 00 34 91 411 13 28, ext. 1141

Fax: 00 34 91 564 50 78


Dr. Diego Gil: Senior Researcher

Dr. Raquel Monclús: Marie Curie fellow (Université de Paris Sud)

Sergio Alfonso: PhD student

Javier Sierro: Field Technician

Evolutionary Ecology of Mediterranean Fauna

The main research interest of the group is the study of the processes of local adaptation in mountains, using as a model to study several tit (great tit, coal tit and blue tit) and the long-tailed lizard in Sierra Nevada.

Department of Zoology

Faculty of Sciencies University of Granada

E-18071 Granada Spain



Dr. Gregorio Moreno-Rueda: Associate Professor 

Dr. José Luis Ros-Santaella: Associate Professor 

Dr. Francisco J. Zamora-Camacho: Postdoctoral student 

Mar Comas Manresa: PhD student

Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology

The Unit of Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology of the Museum focuses on two basic research topics:

  1. Local adaptation: A topic of growing interest in recent years is the role that habitat heterogeneity may play in generating local adaptation at micro-geographical scales. The objectives of this research are to analyze the direct mechanisms of ecological speciation or how exactly translates adaptation into reproductive isolation. To do this, we integrate studies on population dynamics, sexual selection, genetics and behaviour. In this regard, and as an example, we studied how the variability in the personality of individuals or their ornaments translates into greater hábitat-dependent fitness.
  1. Plumage colouration: One of the typical characteristics of birds is the very showiness colouration of their plumage. In this research line we study how different colour patches can communicate different information units. The work performed mainly focus on colour spots signaling dominance (social selection) and the quality of individuals (sexual selection), analyzing the information units transmitted, the implications for the natural history of the different species, and mechanisms to avoid cheating.

Museum of Natural Sciencies of Barcelona

Paseo Picasso s/n, Parc Ciutadella

E-08003 Barcelona Spain



Dr. Juan Carlos Senar: Senior Researccher 

Dr. Francesc Uribe: Curator

Dr. Javier Quesada. Curator

Lluïsa Arroyo: Research Technician

Pepe Carrillo: Research Technician

Helena Navalpotro: PhD student

Sepand Riyahi: PhD student

Ecology of parasitism

Our main interest is the study of the ecology of parasitism, especially the adaptive strategies of parasite-host interactions and their evolution, and the life histories of birds, particularly the physiological costs of reproduction and parasitism.

National Museum of Natural History

Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

C/ José Gutiérrez Abascal 2

28006 Madrid Spain

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Dr. Santiago Merino Rodríguez: Senior Researcher

Elisa Pérez Badas: PhD student

Francisco Castaño Vazquez: PhD student

Dr. Rodrigo Megía Palma: Postdoctoral student

Dr. Francisco Javier Martínez Gonzalez: Assistant Professor

Colouration and trophic niche

The research group conducts long-term monitoring of common kestrel Falco tinnunculus populations breeding in nest boxes, and is interested in the study of signaling theory and trophic interactions. Their research is trying to bring new knowledge of how environmental factors that operate at the population level affect life history strategies and fitness of individuals. Particularly the group is interested in knowing how changes in food diversity, abundance and availability affect individual foraging strategies (trophic ecology), expression of signals (signalling theory), host immunity- pathogen relationships (ecoimmunology) and sex vulnerability (sex allocation theory).

Department of Evolutionary Ecology

National Museum of Natural History

Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

C/ José Gutérrez Abascal 2 

28006 Madrid Spain

Population and behavioural ecology

We are interested in the adaptation of birds to the Mediterranean environments in general, and to recent changes in the climate in particular. We use the great tit Parus major as model species, and other bird species for particular studies. We combine long-term monitoring (since 1986) of a breeding population, with individual marking of birds since 1992, with short-term studies, both observational and experimental. Among the aspects studied are characteristics of nests, nestling diet, incubation behavior, breeding success, recruitment, dispersal, adult survival, etc.

Cavanilles Institute of Biodiversity and Evolutionary Biology

University of Valencia

C/ Catedrático José Beltrán 2

46980 Paterna Spain

Breeding biology of insectivorous forest birds

Our aim is to understand the ecological causes and the evolutionary consequences of changes in life strategies. Most of our work is based on the collection of individual-level data on reproduction and survival of two species of altricial insectivorous birds, the great and the blue tits, in the center of Spain (Montes de Toledo). The research seeks to understand the dynamics of the evolutionary process in response to relevant environmental changes (eg climate change, loss and fragmentation of habitat). We want to understand how evolution has resulted in certain phenotypes and life history traits in birds, trying to identify the causes that modulate the fitness of individuals and populations in the wild.

We have developed research work on the energy Budget of forest cavity-nesting birds, the implications of blood parasites, reproductive strategies, the role of plumage colouration in sexual selection, or trophic interactions between predators (birds) and prey (insects) and thieir implications for avian reproduction. In addition, we are interested in the response of different organisms (birds, insects and plants) to recent climate change.

Department of Evolutionary Ecology

National Museum of Natural History

Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

C/ José Gutiérrez Abascal 2

28006 Madrid Spain


Dr. Juan José Sanz Cid: Senior Researcher

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David Diez-Méndez: PhD student

Dr. Eva Serrano-Davies: Postdoctoral student
Dr. Rafael Barrientos Yuste: Researcher

Evolution of Animal Pigmentation

The group adopts an evolutionary physiology approach, aiming at responding the question of how the physiology of organisms constrains the way they evolve. We use the animal pigmentary system, which is responsible for the synthesis of the most common animal pigments (melanins), as a study model. Given the conditions generated during the synthesis of different chemical forms of melanins, different pigmentation patterns provide animals with diverse adaptive benefits but also impose strong physiological constraints. We thus try to put the knowledge on the biochemical basis of melanin synthesis into an evolutionary context. We also investigate the function and evolution of less common (but fascinating) animal pigments such as porphyrins and photosynthetic pigments that are incorporated and used by animals (carotenoids). In particular, we investigate which genes (if any) controlling animal pigmentation are permeable to environmental influences and thus promote adaptive responses through phenotypic plasticity, or if, by contrast, the genetic control of pigmentation represents a strong constraint that limits animal performance in certain environmental conditions. To test our hypotheses, we primarily use a wild population of European nuthatches Sitta europaea breeding in nest boxes, but also wild populations of several other species of birds, and conduct experiments with zebra finches Taeniopygia guttata in captivity. We are also working to apply knowledge on the evolution of melanins and melanin-based traits to understand the evolution of human pigmentation and to find applications to combat human diseases related to melanin synthesis.

Department of Evolutionary Ecology

Doñana Biological Station

Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)

Avda. Américo Vespucio s/n

41092 Sevilla Spain


Dr. Ismael Galván Macías: Ramón y Cajal Research Fellow

Dr. Juan José Negro Balmaseda: Senior Researcher

Enrique Figueroa Luque: PhD student

Rafael Márquez Sánchez: Research Technician

Sara Borrego Aristu: Research Technician


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