Michel Milinkovitch
Artificial & Natural Evolutionary Development of Complexity Group
University of Geneva
Group Webpage

What do we do?

We are combining Evolutionary and Developmental Biology with the study of Physical Processes to understand the mechanisms generating Life’s complexity and diversity. We specialise on non-classical model species in reptiles and mammals and we integrate data and methods from physics, comparative genomics, molecular developmental genetics, as well as computer modeling and numerical simulations.

What's Physics got to do with it? Remarkably, many questions in Development are conceptually similar to those investigated in soft-matter physics, statistical physics, and mechanics. For example, self-organisational capabilities of cells and tissues and the role of geometry and form are pertinent to EvoDevo at multiple scales and levels of analysis. Our objectives are to understand the interactions between physical (e.g., mechanics, reaction diffusion) and biological (e.g., cell signalling, proliferation, migration) parameters generating patterns and shapes during development.  

These studies are integrated into an evolutionary and molecular genetic perspective, hence, we also perform comparative genomics/transcriptomics and we develop phylogeny inference tools. Our projects are, by essence, highly multidisciplinary and integrative. Hence, our team includes Evolutionary and Developmental Biologists, Computer Scientists, Engineers and Physicists.

Highlights 2016

During the course of 2016, our lab:

  • Produced a high-quality / high-coverage sequencing and annotation of the corn snake genome;
  • Performed linkage mapping and characterization of several mutations in the corn snake affecting colour and colour patterns;
  • Identified new reaction-diffusion mechanisms affecting skin colour patterns;
  • Demonstrated the evolutionary homology of skin appendages (hairs, feathers, and scales) across amniote vertebrates; a question that has been debated for decades.

Main publications 2016

  • Di-Poï N & MC Milinkovitch. The Anatomical Placode in Reptile Scale Morphogenesis Indicates Shared Ancestry  Among Skin Appendages in Amniotes. Science Advances 2, e1600708 (2016).
  • Daljit Singh Dhillon, MC Milinkovitch & M. Zwicker. Bifurcation Analysis of Reaction Diffusion Systems on Arbitrary Surfaces. arXiv:1605.01583 [cs.CE]
  • Ullate-Agote A, Chan FY,  Milinkovitch MC & AC. Tzika. A Step-by-step Guide to Assemble a Reptilian Genome. In Press.

Our research topics: