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Department of Genetics


Molecular Evolution


Adaptation, natural selection, population genetics

Research interests

My core research focuses on the causes of molecular evolution, i.e., the processes which shape DNA sequence variation within and between populations.

The research combines theoretical and empirical approaches, often using phylogenetic or comparative methods, and particularly the inference of past evolutionary events from genomic sequence data (which next-generation sequencing methods are generating at an ever-increasing rate).

A common research theme is the need to understand molecular evolution within the context of a species’ wider biology (e.g., combining sequence data with life history, ecological and functional information).

I also have a particular interest in adaptive evolution at the molecular level. Ongoing research projects involve quantifying the contribution of natural selection to genomic change, inferring specific selection pressures that were faced by natural populations, and identifying the general conditions that promote or hinder an adaptive response.

For more details of current research projects, and publications, please see the lab web pages.

3 representative publications

  1. Thomas J A*, Welch J J*, Lanfear R & Bromham L (2010) A generation time effect on the rate of molecular evolution in invertebrates. Mol Biol Evol 27: 1173-1180. (*equal contributions)
  2. Welch J J, Bininda-Emonds O R P & Bromham L (2008) Correlates of substitution rate variation in mammalian protein-coding sequences. BMC Evol Biol 8: 53.
  3. Welch J J (2006) Estimating the genomewide rate of adaptive protein evolution in Drosophila. Genetics 173: 821-837.

Contact details

Group leader : Dr John Welch

Department of Genetics,
University of Cambridge,
Downing Street,
Cambridge CB2 3EH,
United Kingdom


Tel.: +44 (0)1223 333983 [office]

Group members