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.


  • Gamboa, S.Condamine, F. L.Cantalapiedra, J. L.Varela, S.Pelegrín, J. S.Menéndez, I.Blanco, F., & Hernández Fernández, M. 2022A phylogenetic study to assess the link between biome specialization and diversification in swallowtail butterfliesGlobal Change Biology001– 13
  • Carrera, L., Pavia, M. & Varela, S. 2022. Birds adapted to cold conditions show greater changes in range size related to past climatic oscillations than temperate birds. Sci Rep 12, 10813

  • Bibi, F., Kaya, F., Varela, S. 2022. Paleoecology and Paleobiogeography of the Baynunah Fauna. In: Bibi, F., Kraatz, B., Beech, M.J., Hill, A. (eds) Sands of Time. Vertebrate Paleobiology and Paleoanthropology. Springer, Cham.

  • Jones, L.A., Mannion, P.D., Farnsworth, A., Bragg, F. & Lunt, D. L. 2022. Climatic and tectonic drivers shaped the tropical distribution of coral reefs. Nat Commun 13, 3120.
  • Resende Braga, M., Jorge, L.R., Jahn, A.E., Loyola, R. and Varela, S. 2022. Future climate change will impact the migration of New World migrant flycatchers (Tyrannidae). Ornithol. Res. 30, 63–74 10.1007/s43388-022-00081-6 
  • Hernández Fernández, M., Pelegrin, J.S., Gómez Cano, A.R., García Yelo, B.A.,  Moreno-Bofarull, A., Sánchez-Fontela, N., Rodríguez-Ruiz, C., Ramiro Camacho, A., Domingo, L.,  Menéndez, I., Martín-Perea, D.M., Bazán, C.M., Alcalde, G.M., Domingo, M.S., Luna, B., Peinado Cortés, M.M., Arias, A., González Couturier, G., Márquez Villena, A.,  Anaya, N., Blanco, F., Galli, E., Gamboa, S., Quesada, A., Sanz-Pérez, D., Varela, S. &  Cantalapiedra, J.L. 2022. Macroevolution and climate changes: a global multi-family test supports the resource-use hypothesis in terrestrial mammals, Historical Biology 10.1080/08912963.2022.2042807
  • 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
  • Chiarenza, A.A., Fabbri, M., Consorti, L., Muscioni, M., Evans, D.C., Cantalapiedra, J.L. & Fanti, F. 2021. An Italian dinosaur Lagerstätte reveals the tempo and mode of hadrosauriform body size evolution. Sci Rep 11, 23295.
  • 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