William Montaigne

Defense: December, 15th. 2011

Genetic diversity and environmental adaptation in tropical forest trees: study of Virola genus (Myristicaceae)

Forest tree species are dominant components (in terms of biomass and as ecological drivers) of one of the most diverse ecosystems, the tropical rainforest. Their environmental adaptations, and their potential to face climatic changes, determine both the structure of these ecological communities and their fate under global change.

The diversity of the response of tropical trees to their environment is being elucidated, and in particular, it has been found that several genera harbor species that differentiate along the water availability axis (drought/flooding). It has also been shown that closely related species, with slightly different ecological properties, can be differentiated by genetic markers.

Myristicaceae are a widely distributed Neotropical botanical family of forest trees, with a diversity hotspot in Western Amazonia. Species in the family have shown differences in their environmental optima, in particular relative to water stress. Some species are heavily exploited for timber. Their distribution and the mechanisms having led to their expansion in the Neotropics represent therefore a good model for the study of tropical biodiversity and to address the issue of conservation under exploitation pressure and global climatic change.

Recently, sequences of genes involved in plant water balance have been isolated in a set of tropical tree genera, including Virola (Myristicaceae) at UMR EcoFoG and more environmental stress-related genes are being isolated. With this programme, we propose to study the geographical variation of genes potentially involved in the adaptation to environmental stresses in the Virola “species complex”, at regional scale, in order to assess its role in species divergence and species environmental adaptation. At the same time, neutral molecular markers will be used to study phylogenetic relationship between Virola species in French Guiana.

Keywords: biodiversity, environment, population genetics, ecology.

PhD Director

  • Ivan SCOTTI


  • TILLON J., LAMBEETS K., MONTAIGNE W., MAELFAIT J.-P. and BONTE D. (2010) Habitat structure modified by an invasive grass enhances inundation withstanding in a salt-marsh wolf spider. Biological Invasions 12: 3219-3226.
  • TILLON J., MONTAIGNE W. and RENAULT D. (2009) Hypoxic coma as a strategy to survive inundation in a salt-marsh inhabiting spider. Biology Letters 5(4): 442-445.


Oral presentations

  • VEDEL V., MONTAIGNE W.* and SCOTTI I. (2010) From gene regulation to Tropical Rainforest biodiversity conservation. In Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (July 19-23 2010), Bali: Indonesia (*as speaker).
  • MONTAIGNE W., SCOTTI-SAINTAGNE C. and SCOTTI I. (2009) Adaptation à un gradient hydrique chez le genre Virola (Myristicaceae). In Le petit pois déridé (31 août-3 septembre 2009), Grenoble: France.
  • SCOTTI I., LECLERC T., VIMAL R., MONTAIGNE W., TROIPOUX V. and CAZAL S.O.(2008) The effects of forest disturbances on spatial genetic structure in Jacaranda copaia. In Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (June 9-13 2008), Paramaribo: Surinam.


  • MONTAIGNE W., SCOTTI-SAINTAGNE C. and SCOTTI I. (2010) Which historical processes led to the actual genetic organization in Virola species (Myristicaceae) in French Guiana? . In Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (July 19-23 2010), Bali: Indonesia.
  • MONTAIGNE W., SCOTTI-SAINTAGNE C., AUDIGEOS D. and SCOTTI I. (2009) Selection of a candidat gene linked to water stress in the Virola genus (Myristicaceae). In International Conference Knowledge-Based Management of Tropical Rainforests (November 22-28 2009) Cayenne: French Guiana.
  • MONTAIGNE W., RENAULT D. and PÉTILLON J. (2007) Comparison of flooding resistance in salt-marsh (Arctosa fulvolineata and Pardosa proxima) and forest (Pardosa lugubris) spiders (Araneae : Lycosidae). In 17th International Colloquium of Arachnology (August 5-10 2007) São Pedro: Brazil.

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