MAPAS ERC Starting Grant 2020-2025

Universidade de Vigo (Spain)

Diversity is the most important asset of life on Earth. Estimates indicate that there are more than 8 million species providing us food, well-being, and health.

Since Darwin and Mendel, we started to understand how diversity is selected and inherited. However, where and why biodiversity originates and vanishes are fundamental questions yet to be answered. Global biodiversity patterns have been studied by biogeographers and palaeontologists aiming to unveil general rules of life. But here, instead of focussing on patterns, I propose to focus on modelling and mapping processes through deep time (e.g. species origination and extinction).

MAPAS aims to test the influence of different biotic and abiotic drivers in processes generating biodiversity, and answer theoretical and practical research questions involving where and why species originate, spread, and vanish.

MAPAS will pioneer the study of deep-time geographic diversification dynamics with an unprecedented time-frame. I plan to produce palaeoclimatic simulations for the entire Phanerozoic (the last 540 million years) and a ground-breaking spatially-explicit mechanistic model to generate the first maps of the geographical distribution of evolutive processes across deep time.


Chiarenza, A. A., Mannion, P. D., Farnsworth, A., Carrano, M. T., & Varela, S. 2022. Climatic constraints on the biogeographic history of Mesozoic dinosaurs. Current Biology 32, 1–16

Galván, S., Barrientos, R., & Varela, S. 2021. No Bird Database is Perfect: Citizen Science and Professional Datasets Contain Different and Complementary Biodiversity Information. Ardeola69 (1), 97-114.

Chowdhury, M.A.W., Müller, J., & Varela, S. 2021. Climate change and the increase of human population will threaten conservation of Asian cobras. Sci Rep 11,18113