Laboratory of Artificial
& Natural Evolution

(Michel C. Milinkovitch’s lab)


An integrative approach. 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 has Physics 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. Our projects are, by essence, highly multidisciplinary and integrative as they require investigation, across lineages, of morphological, physiological and genomic characters. Hence, our team includes Evolutionary and Developmental Biologists, Computer Scientists, Engineers and Physicists.

Projects. Check our EpiPhysX (funded by SystemsX), United Living Colours ‘dot CH’ (funded by the Swiss National Foundation multidiciplinary program) and Colour Patterning projects on the Physics of Biology and EvoDevo pages.

All these studies are integrated into an evolutionary and molecular genetic perspective, hence, we extensively use comparative genomics/transcriptomics and we develop phylogeny inference tools. Note that, in a previous life, the core activities in Milinkovitch’s lab pertained to the production of experimental data and the development of tools and algorithms in Evolutionary Genetics (Conservation Genetics, Molecular Phylogenetics, and Applied Evolutionary Genetics).


The homology among hairs, feathers and scales demonstrated. Check our Science Advances article in which we evidence molecular and micro-anatomical signatures that are identical between hairs, feathers and scales at their early developmental stages.

The amelanistic mutation identified in corn snakes. Check our Scientific Reports article in which we identify the genetic determinism of the oldest know corn snake colour trait.

Reptilian EvoDevo meets Genomics/Transcriptomics. Check our two new articles and resources: the ‘Reptilian Transcriptomes Database 2.0’ and the draft genome of the corn snake. Additional info HERE.

R2OBBIE-3D: scanning Life with high resolution. Check our robotic system that generates 3D models of biological objects <150 cm with colour-texture and geometric resolutions <15 µm without the use of magnifying lenses. Additional info HERE.

How the chameleon changes its colours. We show in ‘Nature Communications’  how intracellular crystals at the nanometer scale allow chameleons to actively shift colour and resist to extreme solar radiation exposure.

Cracking the Code of Crocodile Scales. We show in ‘Science’ that Crocodile Head Scales Are Not Developmental Units But Emerge from Physical Cracking

Click HERE for more news ...