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Adaptations to life at high altitude in Canary Island bats

Project Description

Global climate change is predicted to result in species shifting their ranges up latitudinal and altitudinal gradients to track suitable climatic conditions. However, although the temperature may become suitable, high altitude hypoxia (oxygen deficiency) may limit the ability of lowland species to survive at higher altitudes. Physiological and genetic adaptations to high altitude environments have been identified in humans and other vertebrates. Yet little is known about adaptive mechanisms for hypoxia tolerance and their drivers.

Islands are living laboratories that can give insights into evolutionary processes like adaptation and speciation. The Canary Islands have outstanding biodiversity with high levels of endemism and diverse ecosystems distributed across altitudinal gradients, rising to 3718 m. Bats represent the majority of native mammals on oceanic islands. The Canary Islands are home to seven bat species, two of which are endemic. Previous studies identified climate-driven genetic adaptations in bats, but it is unknown how they cope with high altitude hypoxia.

This PhD studentship will combine genomic, ecological and modelling approaches to identify adaptations to high altitude in Canary Island bats and extrapolate the effect of these adaptations on species distributions, population structure and movement processes. The PhD candidate will develop the following objectives:

1. Identify morphological, physiological and genomic adaptations to high altitude.

2. Determine the effect of island isolation, altitude and land cover on movement patterns and population structure of island bats using the Landscape Genetics approach.

3. Model the effects of adaptations, abiotic conditions, biotic interactions and landscape barriers to movement on the present and future distribution of Canary Island bats.

This multidisciplinary project offers training opportunities in ecological fieldwork, GIS, ecological modelling, advanced statistics, molecular lab techniques, bioinformatics and genomic data analysis. The PhD candidate will travel to the Canary Islands for fieldwork and training.

For more information:

Funding Notes

The project is funded for 3.5 years and welcomes applicants from the UK and EU (EU applicants need to have been residents in the UK for at least 3 years prior to application), who have or expect to obtain at least an upper second class degree (BSc or MSc) in Biological Sciences or allied subjects. Funding will cover fees and a stipend at current research council rates of £ 14,777 per annum.

Due to funding restrictions this position is only open to UK/EU applicants who have been residents in the UK for at least 3 years prior to application,


Information on how to apply:
Applications should be submitted online at:

Please place ‘Orly Razgour’ ‘in the field for proposed supervisor.

General enquiries should be made to Orly Razgour at [email protected] . Any queries on the application process should be made to [email protected]

The University of Southampton and Biological Sciences both hold an Athena Swan Silver & Bronze Award, respectively, demonstrating their commitment to provide equal opportunities and to advance the representation of women in STEM/M subjects: science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medicine. Due consideration will be given to applicants who have taken a career break. University benefits include onsite childcare facilities, state-of-the-art on-campus sports, arts and culture facilities, a full programme of events and a range of staff discounts.

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