Research theme 1: Life history and demography of wild populations

I focus on life history and senescence evolution and on the dynamics of animal populations. I investigate the diversity of acturial senescence patterns, mainly in ectotherm tetrapods. I also examine how life history components (survival, reproduction, and growth) correlate with each other via evolutionary trade-off, leading to the emergence of life history syndromes.

     Moreover, I investigate the role of extrinsic (i.e., environmental) and intrisic (i.e., density dependence) factors in demographic processes. I study how environmental variation (e.g., changes in habitat characteristics) affects strategies of resource allocation between somatic maintenance and reproduction (Cayuela et al. 2014, 2016a, 2018a). I also investigate how meteorological parameters (e.g., precipitation, temperature), local extreme climate events (e.g., flood, dry conditions), and regional climate phenomenon (e.g., North-Atlantic Oscillation) affect age-dependent mortality patterns, reproduction (i.e., breeding probability and offspring production), and long-term population viability (Cayuela et al. 2014, 2015a, 2016b, 2016c, 2017a; Weinbach et al. 2018). Furthermore, I study the influence of density dependence on demographic rates as survival, recruitment, and population growth, using for instance experimental populations (Cayuela et al. 2018b).

     In a more applied perspective, I analyze how human activities and their impact on natural habitats (e.g., destruction and alteration) affect individuals’ physiological stress, survival, and ultimately the long-term persistence of populations (Cayuela et al. 2015b, 2018c). I also evaluate the efficiency of management practices (e.g., population reintroduction) using comparative demographic approaches (Cayuela et al. 2018d).

     I investigate those issues in ectotherm tetrapods, including amphibians and reptiles, that have been neglected for a long time by ageing and demographic studies. Those organisms are highly sensitive to climate variation because of their physiology and are therefore excellent biological models for the study of the effect of climate change on population dynamics. In a applied perspective, amphibians and reptiles are among the most endangered vertebrates in the world, making them important target for conservation policies.

    In my analyses, I use capture-recapture data collected via long-term demographic surveys performed in collaboration with other researchers or wildlife managers from US, UK, and European countries (e.g., France, Switzerland, Italy, Germany, Belgium). I am specialized in the development and use of multistate and multievent capture-recapture models that allows estimating a broad range of demographic parameters (survival, recruitment, dispersal, breeding probabilities; see for instance: Cayuela et al. 2014, 2016a, 2018b, 2018c, 2018e, 2018e).

Research theme 2: dispersal ecology and evolution

I investigate the ultimate and proximal causes of dispersal, and the consequences of this behavior for the dynamics and genetics of spatially structured populations. I study how genotype and phenotype plasticity (including transgenerational plasticity) determine the evolution of dispersal and dispersal-related traits. I examine how phenotypic traits (e.g., body size and condition, size, age) faciliate or impede dispersal, leading to the emergence of dispersal syndromes (Cayuela et al. 2016d, Cayuela et al. 2016e, Denoël et al. 2018).

     Furthermore, I analyze how extrinsic factors as conspecific density, patch size and characteristics (e.g., disturbance level, persistence over time) influence the different steps (i.e., emigration, transience, and immigration) of the dispersal process (Cayuela et al. 2016d, 2018b, 2018e; Tournier et al. 2017, Boualit et al. 2018; Denoël et al. 2018).

    I also examine how phenotypic specialization and local environmental variation influences dispersal patterns (dispersal rates and kernels), gene flow, and adaptative processes in spatially structured populations (Cayuela et al. 2016e).

     I address those questions in pond-breeding amphibians (see my recent review, Cayuela et al. 2018f), social birds, and protists. I use integrative approaches combining experimental studies (common garden experiments and behavioral tests in arena; for the use outdoor mesocosm, see also Cayuela et al. 2016f, 2017b, 2017c) and capture-recapture and genomic data in wild populations.

   Furthermore, I develop innovative capture-recapture models allowing quantifying dispersal, survival, and recapture probabilities in spatio-temporally variable landscapes (Cayuela et al. 2017d, Cayuela et al. 2018g). I have also recently written a review paper focusing on the demographic and genetic approaches designed to estimate and study dispersal in free-ranging populations (Cayuela et al. 2018h).

Research theme 3: Population genomic and molecular bases of evolution

I investigate population genomic, local adaptation, and other evolutionary processes (e.g., gene flow and introgression among lineages) using next-generation sequencing technologies. In addition, I examine how sequence polymorphism, structural variants, gene expression and methylation profiles along the genome determine phenotypic variation (e.g., dispersal-related and life history traits) in wild and experimental populations.

    I currently develop this research topic in the laboratory of Dr. Louis Bernatchez (IBIS, Université Laval, Québec). I lead a project on population genomics of a marine fish, the capelin (Mallotus villosus), in North Atlantic and Artic regions. I especially search for signals of adaptation along environmental gradients (e.g. temperature and salinity) using a Genotyping-By-Sequencing (GBS) approach. Moreover, using Whole-Genome-Sequencing (WGS) method, I identify genomic regions under divergent selection that are involved in the evolution of alternative reproduction strategies (demersal phenotype vs beach-spawning phenotype) of the capelin. Furthermore, I also carry out another research project focusing on the genomic and transcriptomic bases of dispersal evolution in a protist (Tetrahymena thermophila). I use an approach of artificial selection to select or counter-select dispersal-related traits (i.e., cell velocity and elongation) and I analyze changes in allele frequencies and gene expression using WGS and RNA-seq approaches. 


  • Cayuela et al. (2014). To breed or not to breed: past reproductive status and environmental cues drive current breeding decisions in a long-lived amphibian. Oecologia, 176, 107-116.

  • Boualit, [...], & Cayuela (2018). Environmentally mediated reproductive success predicts breeding dispersal decisions in an early successional amphibian. Animal Behaviour, in press.

  • Cayuela et al. (2015a). Slow life history and rapid extreme flood: demographic mechanisms and their consequences on population viability in a threatened amphibian. Freshwater Biology, 60, 2349-2361.

  • Cayuela et al. (2015b). Intensive vehicle traffic impacts morphology and endocrine stress response in a threatened amphibian. Oryx, 51, 182-188.

  • Cayuela et al. (2016a). Contrasting patterns of environmental fluctuation contribute to divergent life histories among amphibian populations. Ecology, 97, 980-991.

  • Cayuela et al. (2016b). Demographic responses to weather fluctuations are context dependent in a long‐lived amphibian. Global Change Biology, 22, 2676-2687.

  • Cayuela et al. (2016c). The impact of severe drought on survival, fecundity, and population persistence in an endangered amphibian. Ecosphere, 7, e01246.

  • Cayuela et al. (2016d). Does habitat unpredictability promote the evolution of a colonizer syndrome in amphibian metapopulations?. Ecology, 97, 2658-2670.

  • Cayuela et al. (2016e). Réponses à un environnement spatio-temporellement variable : sexe, dispersion et tactiques d'histoire de vie chez le sonneur à ventre jaune (Bombina variegata, L.). PhD Thesis.

  • Cayuela et al. (2016f). Larval competition risk shapes male–male competition and mating behavior in an anuran. Behavioral Ecology, arw100.

  • Cayuela et al. (2017a). Life history tactics shape amphibians’ demographic responses to the North Atlantic Oscillation. Global Change Biology, 23, 4620-4638.

  • Cayuela et al. (2017b). Females trade off the uncertainty of breeding resource suitability with male quality during mate choice in an anuran. Animal Behaviour, 123, 179-185.

  • Cayuela et al. (2017c). Relatedness predicts male mating success in a pond-breeding amphibian. Animal Behaviour, 130, 251-261.

  • Cayuela et al. (2017d). Analysing movement behaviour and dynamic space‐use strategies among habitats using multi‐event capture‐recapture modelling. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 8, 1124-1132.

  • Cayuela et al. (2018a). Co-occurrence of contrasting life-history strategies in a metapopulation inhabiting temporally variable and stable breeding sites. bioRxiv, 500942.

  • Cayuela et al. (2018b). Multiple density‐dependent processes shape the dynamics of a spatially structured amphibian population. Journal of Animal Ecology, in press.

  • Cayuela et al. (2018c). Demographic response to patch destruction in a spatially structured amphibian population. Journal of Applied Ecology, 55, 2204-2215.

  • Cayuela et al. (2018d). Survival cost to relocation does not reduce population self-sustainability in an amphibian. bioRxiv, 446278.

  • Cayuela et al. (2018e). Context-dependent dispersal, public information, and heterospecific attraction in newts. Oecologia, 188, 1069-1080.

  • Cayuela et al. (2018f). Determinants and consequences of dispersal in vertebrates with complex life cycles: a review of pond-breeding amphibians (No. e27394v1). PeerJ Preprints.

  • Cayuela et al. (2018g). Estimating dispersal in spatiotemporally variable environments using multievent capture–recapture modeling. Ecology, 99, 1150-1163.

  • Cayuela et al. (2018h). Demographic and genetic approaches to study dispersal in wild animal populations: A methodological review. Molecular Ecology, 27, 3976-4010.

  • Denoël, [...], & Cayuela (2018). Dispersal and alternative breeding site fidelity strategies in an amphibian. Ecography, 41, 1543-1555.

  • Tournier, [...], & Cayuela (2017). Manipulating waterbody hydroperiod affects movement behaviour and occupancy dynamics in an amphibian. Freshwater Biology, 62, 1768-1782.

  • Weinbach et al. (2018). Resilience to climate variation in a spatially structured amphibian population. Scientific Reports, 8, 14607.

 Tetrao urogallus 

 Bombina variegata 

 Triturus cristatus ,

 Triturus cristatus  

 Triturus cristatus  


 Mallotus villosus ,

 Mallotus villosus  


 Tetrahymena thermophyla 

 Tetrahymena thermophyla 


 Chelonoidis vicina  


 Cruziohyla craspedopus 


Bothrocophias campbelli