Quinten Bafort

Quinten Bafort — PhD student
Joined the group in 2016

A PhD student fascinated by biodiversity and the evolution of life. Using a combination of bioinformatics tools and evolve and resequence experiments with Chlamydomonas reinhardtii and Spirodela polyrhiza, I try to gain a better understanding of the link between environmental stress and whole genome duplications and the stabilisation of these duplicated genomes. In addition to polyploidy and its link with ecology and evolution I have a strong interest in alpine ecosystems and cryptogams.


2014-2016: M.Sc. Biology Ghent University
Majoring in Evolutionary Biology and Biodiversity

2011-2014: B.Sc. Biology, Ghent University


  1. Vieira, C., Steen, F., D’hondt, S., Bafort, Q., Tyberghein, L., Fernandez-Garcia, C., … De Clerck, O. (2021). Global biogeography and diversification of a group of brown seaweeds (Phaeophyceae) driven by clade-specific evolutionary processes. JOURNAL OF BIOGEOGRAPHY, 48(4), 703–715. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.14047
    Aim: Historical processes that shaped current diversity patterns of seaweeds remain poorly understood. Using Dictyotales, a globally distributed order of brown seaweeds as a model, we test if historical biogeographical and diversification patterns are comparable across clades. Dictyotales contain some 22 genera, three of which, Dictyota, Lobophora and Padina, are exceptionally diverse. Specifically, we test whether the evolutionary processes that shaped the latitudinal diversity patterns in these clades are in line with the tropical conservatism, out-of-the-tropics or diversification rate hypotheses. Location: Global coastal benthic marine environments. Taxon: Dictyotales (Phaeophyceae). Methods: Species diversity was inferred using DNA-based species delineation, addressing cryptic diversity and circumventing taxonomic problems. A six-gene time-calibrated phylogeny, distribution data of 3,755 specimens and probabilistic modelling of geographical range evolution were used to infer historical biogeographical patterns. The phylogeny was tested against different trait-dependent models to compare diversification rates for different geographical units as well as different thermal affinities. Results: Our results indicate that Dictyotales originated in the Middle Jurassic and reach a current peak of species diversity in the Central Indo-Pacific. Ancestral range estimation points to a southern hemisphere origin of Dictyotales corresponding to the tropical southern Tethys Sea. Our results demonstrate that diversification rates were generally higher in tropical regions, but increased diversification rates in different clades are driven by different processes. Our results suggest that three major clades underwent a major diversification burst in the early Cenozoic, with Dictyota and Padina expanding their distribution into temperate regions while Lobophora retained a predominantly tropical niche. Main conclusions: Our results are consistent with both the tropical conservatism hypothesis, in which clades originate and remain in the tropics (Lobophora), and the out-of-the-tropics scenario, where taxa originate and expand towards the temperate regions while preserving their presence in the tropics (Dictyota, Padina).
  2. Tran, L.-A. T., Bafort, Q., Steen, F., Gomez Garreta, A., D’hondt, S., Miller, K. A., … De Clerck, O. (2021). Dictyota cyanoloma (Dictyotales, Phaeophyceae), a newly introduced brown algal species in California(1). JOURNAL OF PHYCOLOGY, 57(1), 370–378. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpy.13100
    Here, we report for the first time the presence of Dictyota cyanoloma in southern California. Dictyota cyanoloma is conspicuous in harbors and bays by its distinctive bright blue-iridescent margins. This species was originally described from Europe, but subsequent studies have revealed that it represented an introduction from Australia. The current distribution of D. cyanoloma comprises southern Australia and the North East Atlantic, including the Mediterranean Sea and the Macaronesian islands. The presence of D. cyanoloma in southern California is supported by molecular cox1 and psbA gene sequences. A reconstruction of the invasive history based on nine polymorphic microsatellite markers reveals a close affinity of the Californian specimens with European populations. Dictyota cyanoloma in the United States appears to be (so far) restricted to the Californian coast from San Diego Bay in the south to Santa Catalina Island and Long Beach Harbor in the north. A correlative species distribution model suggests gradually declining habitat suitability north of the Southern Californian Bight and high suitability in Baja California, including the Gulf of California. Finally, its widespread abundance in bays and harbors suggests shipping is a likely transport mechanism.
  3. Bonte, D., & Bafort, Q. (2019). The importance and adaptive value of life‐history evolution for metapopulation dynamics. JOURNAL OF ANIMAL ECOLOGY, 88(1), 24–34.
    The spatial configuration and size of patches influence metapopulation dynamics by altering colonisation-extinction dynamics and local density dependency. This spatial forcing as determined by the metapopulation typology then imposes strong selection pressures on life-history traits, which will in turn feed back on the ecological metapopulation dynamics. Given the relevance of metapopulation persistence for biological conservation, and the potential rescuing role of evolution, a firm understanding of the relevance of these eco-evolutionary processes is essential. We here follow a systems' modelling approach to quantify the importance of spatial forcing and experimentally observed life-history evolution for metapopulation demography as quantified by (meta)population size and variability. We therefore developed an individual-based model matching an earlier experimental evolution with spider mites to perform virtual translocation and invasion experiments that would have been otherwise impossible to conduct. We show that (a) metapopulation demography is more affected by spatial forcing than by life-history evolution, but that life-history evolution contributes substantially to changes in local- and especially metapopulation-level population sizes, (b) extinction rates are minimised by evolution in classical metapopulations, and (c) evolution is optimising individual performance in metapopulations when considering the importance of more cryptic stress resistance evolution. Ecological systems' modelling opens up a promising avenue to quantify the importance of eco-evolutionary feedbacks in spatially structured populations. Metapopulation sizes are especially impacted by evolution, but its variability is mainly determined by the spatial forcing. Eco-evolutionary dynamics can increase the persistence of classical metapopulations. Conservation of genetic variation and, hence, adaptive potential is thus not only essential in the face of environmental change; it also generates putative rescuing feedbacks that impact metapopulation persistence.