Limits to the adaptive evolution process

Evolutionary Biology

The process of adaptive evolution – in the simplest models – occurs as long as selection acts on the population and there is heritable genetic variation for the trait under selection. However, many other proximate and ultimate factors can influence the process of adaptation. A past emphasis of my research has been the role of population size in determining quantitative genetic variation for ecologically relevant traits and the predicted response to selection. In a current project, we study the role of outcrossing and recombination on quantitative genetic variation and the response to selection. Furthermore, we explore how genetic correlations limit adaptation, and the role of environmental stress in adaptive evolution. Current investigations focus on Arabidopsis lyrata. Our work has a strong experimental component (selection experiments), but we also look at patterns of genetic variation and adaptation in natural populations of Arabidopsis lyrata in the Great Lakes region of North America.


Recent Publications

  • Metabarcoding of honey to assess differences in plant-pollinator interactions between urban and non-urban sites
    Lucek, K; Galli, A; Gurten, S; Hohmann, N; Maccagni, A; Patsiou, T; Willi, Y
    APIDOLOGIE, 50 (3):317-329; 10.1007/s13592-019-00646-3 JUL 2019
  • The relevance of mutation load for species range limits
    Willi, Y
    AMERICAN JOURNAL OF BOTANY, 106 (6):757-759; 10.1002/ajb2.1296 JUN 2019
  • A Practical Guide to the Study of Distribution Limits
    Willi, Y; Van Buskirk, J
    AMERICAN NATURALIST, 193 (6):773-785; 10.1086/703172 JUN 1 2019
  • Postglacial ecotype formation under outcrossing and self-fertilization in Arabidopsis lyrata
    Lucek, K; Hohmann, N; Willi, Y
    MOLECULAR ECOLOGY, 28 (5):1043-1055; 10.1111/mec.15035 MAR 2019
  • Genetic differentiation in life history traits and thermal stress performance across a heterogeneous dune landscape in Arabidopsis lyrata
    Wos, G; Willi, Y
    ANNALS OF BOTANY, 122 (3):473-483; 10.1093/aob/mcy090 SEP 1 2018
  • Accumulation of transposable elements in selfing populations of Arabidopsis lyrata supports the ectopic recombination model of transposon evolution
    Bonchev, Georgi; Willi, Yvonne
    NEW PHYTOLOGIST, 219 (2):767-778; 10.1111/nph.15201 JUL 2018
  • Accumulation of Mutational Load at the Edges of a Species Range
    Willi, Yvonne; Fracassetti, Marco; Zoller, Stefan; Van Buskirk, Josh
    MOLECULAR BIOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, 35 (4):781-791; 10.1093/molbev/msy003 APR 2018
  • Environmental marginality and geographic range limits: a case study with Arabidopsis lyrata ssp lyrata
    Lee-Yaw, Julie A.; Fracassetti, Marco; Willi, Yvonne
    ECOGRAPHY, 41 (4):622-634; 10.1111/ecog.02869 APR 2018
  • Thermal acclimation in Arabidopsis lyrata: genotypic costs and transcriptional changes 
    Wos, G.; Willi, Y. 
    JOURNAL OF EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY, 31 (1): 123-135 JAN 2018 Article (Details)
Yvonne Willi Uni Basel

Prof. Dr. Yvonne Willi
University of Basel
Department of Environmental Sciences – Botany
4056 Basel

Tel: +41 (0)61 207 23 20

Research topics

  • Population genetics
  • Quantitative genetics
  • Conservation genetics
  • Mating system evolution



  • Conservation: fate of small populations under environmental change
  • Genetic variation and adaptability in plant pathogenic fungi
  • Mating system evolution and the evolution of selfish genetic elements
  • Life history evolution, genetic trade-offs and genetic correlations