Dr Elio Rodrigo Castillo

Postdoctoral Researcher

Research interest


I am an evolutionary biologist particularly interested in Orthopterans, with a focus on Systematics, chromosome evolution, and genomic changes. I have explored remarkable features of this insects to study lineages exhibiting chromosome mutations and evolutionary new formed sex chromosomes. My research has extended to understanding the highlighted variations in the external body coloration and the homogeneity in characters of male genitalia (commonly utilized for species determination) in specific groups. I have delved into the biology of pests and invasive species, and I have studied the phylogenetic relationship in recently diverged clades, distributed across the diverse landscapes of South America.

Currently, I am actively engaging in an unprecedented continent-wide scale project to unravel the Orthoptera cryptic diversity in Europe. Collaborating with researchers from three iDiv member institutions, our integrative approach to the study of Orthoptera biology focuses on characterizing genome size, karyotype, and sperm morphology across the European orthopteran fauna. These comprehensive datasets will enable us to (i) reconstruct the evolutionary history of genomic and reproductive diversity, (ii) correlate genomic and reproductive diversity with ecological traits of a species, and (iii) relate genomic and reproductive diversity to species richness. This will provide insight into the drivers of diversity in an important group of insects on a continent-wide scale.

Current project


iDiv Flexpool project "Cryptic diversity and evolution in Orthoptera: A continent-wide perspective", main PI: Prof. Dr. Holger Schielzeth at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Population Ecology Group. Co-PI: Prof. Dr. Claudia Fricke at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, Dr. Susanne Duncker at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and Dr. Octavio Palacios-Gimenez at the Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Population Ecology Group.

Orthopterans (crickets, bush-crickets and grasshoppers) represent one of the largest groups of herbivores insects with major impacts on grassland ecosystems, but also with significant impact on tree foliage along forest edges. They are a highly diverse group of insects with unusually large genomes, high genome fluidity and reproductive diversity. Chromosome mutations are an important source of variation which could prevent the correct chromosome pairing at meiosis. Repetitive elements in large genomes and B chromosomes promote ectopic recombination and thus cause of structural variation. Structural variation can fuel adaptation or (as in the case of karyotypic variation) lead to separation of gene pools. Colour polymorphisms are known to promote speciation, however, they can also facilitate population persistence. Finally, sperm trait can promote speciation, if they coevolve with female reproductive physiology. Coevolution is likely and rapidly leads to reproductively incompatible populations.

This project aims to compile a unique dataset that will bring together phylogenetic, genome size, karyotype and sperm morphology information with existing data on distribution, habitat use, colour morph diversity and species richness within clades. The research will address: i) The genome size mapping in a complete phylogenetic tree of orthopterans to understand when genome size increase has happened in evolution. ii) A high-resolution map of karyotype evolution in orthopterans. This will allow us to understand genome fluidity and its possible consequences for diversification. iii) The diversity of sperm morphology in orthopterans to elucidate the role of sexual selection in the diversification in this clade.

Selected Publications


Noelia V Guzmán, Luciano M Gandini, Elio Rodrigo D. Castillo, Florencia Fernandez Campón, Maria Marta Cigliano, Viviana A Confalonieri (2023): Pleistocene climatic oscillations influenced the emergence of geographically widespread and restricted genetic lineages in an Andean grasshopper species group, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/biolinnean/blad166

Elio Rodrigo D. Castillo, M. Celeste Scattolini, Octavio M. Palacios-Gimenez, Dardo A. Martí, Diogo C. Cabral-De-Mello and María M. Cigliano (2023): Karyotype evolution in Ronderosia grasshoppers (Orthoptera: Acrididae). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlac090

Noelia V. Guzmán, Petri Kemppainen, Daniela Monti, Elio Rodrigo D. Castillo, Marcela S. Rodriguero, Andrés F. Sánchez-Restrepo, Maria Marta Cigliano, Viviana A. Confalonieri (2022): Stable inversion clines in a grasshopper species group despite complex geographical history. Molecular Ecology. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.16305

Mylena D Santander, Diogo C Cabral-de-Mello, Alberto Taffarel, Emiliano Martí, Dardo A Martí, Octavio M Palacios-Gimenez, Elio Rodrigo D. Castillo (2021): New insights into the six decades of Mesa’s hypothesis of chromosomal evolution in Ommexechinae grasshoppers (Orthoptera: Acridoidea). Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society. https://doi.org/10.1093/zoolinnean/zlaa188

Castillo Elio Rodrigo D., Dardo A. Martí, Maximiliano M. Maronna, María C. Scattolini, Diogo C. Cabral-de-Mello and María M. Cigliano (2019): Chromosome evolution and phylogeny in Ronderosia (Orthoptera, Acrididae, Melanoplinae): clues of survivors to the challenge of sympatry? Systematic Entomology. https://doi.org/10.1111/syen.12317

Octavio M. Palacios-Gimenez, Diogo Milani, Bernardo Lemos, Elio Rodrigo D. Castillo, Dardo A. Martí, Erica Ramos, Cesar Martins and Diogo C. Cabral-de-Mello (2018): Uncovering the evolutionary history of neo-XY sex chromosomes in the grasshopper Ronderosia bergii (Orthoptera, Melanoplinae) through satellite DNA analysis. BMC Evolutionary Biology. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-017-1113-x

Castillo Elio Rodrigo D., Taffarel, Alberto, Maronna, Maximiliano M., Cigliano, María Marta, Palacios-Gimenez O., Cabral De Mello D.C., Martí, Dardo A. (2017): Phylogeny and chromosomal diversification in the Dichroplus elongatus species group (Orthoptera, Melanoplinae). PLOS ONE. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0172352

Castillo Elio Rodrigo D., Alberto Taffarel, Yanina Mariottini, Valeria Fernández-Arhex, Dardo A. Martí, Claudio J. Bidau (2016): Neo-sex chromosomes in the Maculipennis species group (Dichroplus: Acrididae, Melanoplinae): the cases of D. maculipennis and D. vittigerum. Zoological Science. doi: 10.2108/zs150165

Castillo Elio Rodrigo D. (2014): Evolutionary recycling of sex chromosomes in Neotropical Melanoplinae. Metaleptea Vol 34 (3)

Castillo, Elio Rodrigo D., Alberto Taffarel and Dardo Martí (2014): The Early Evolutionary History of Neo-Sex Chromosomes in Neotropical Grasshoppers, Boliviacris noroestensis (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Melanoplinae). European Journal of Entomology.

Palacios-Gimenez Octavio M., Elio Rodrigo D. Castillo, Dardo A. Martí and Diogo Cabral-de-Mello. (2013): Tracking the evolution of sex chromosome systems in Melanoplinae grasshoppers through chromosomal mapping of repetitive DNA sequences. BMC Evolutionary Biology. https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2148-13-167

Bidau C. J., Martí D.A. and Castillo Elio Rodrigo D. (2011): Inexorable spread: inexorable death? the fate of Neo-XY chromosomes of Grasshoppers. Journal of Genetics.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s12041-011-0108-4 

Castillo, Elio Rodrigo D., Martí, D.A. and Bidau, C.J. (2010) b: Neo-sex chromosomes diversity in neotropical melanopline grasshoppers (Melanoplinae, Acrididae). Genetica https://doi.org/10.1007/s10709-010-9458-8

Castillo, Elio Rodrigo D., Martí D.A. and Bidau C.J. (2010) a: Sex and neo-sex chromosomes in Orthoptera: a review. Journal of Orthoptera Research. https://doi.org/10.1665/034.019.0207

Scientific Career


2024 - Postdoctoral Researcher at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. Friedrich Schiller University Jena, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Population Ecology Group. Jena, Germany.

2018 - Scientific Researcher of the National Scientific and Technical Research Council (CONICET).   Institute of Subtropical Biology (IBS). Posadas, Misiones, Argentina.

2016 - Assistant Professor Cell and Molecular Biology, Misiones National University (UNaM).  Posadas, Misiones, Argentina.

2016. Ph.D. in Biological Sciences. Cordoba National University (UNC). Cordoba, Argentina.

2008. BSc. in Genetics. Misiones National University (UNaM). Posadas, Misiones, Argentina.

Selected Projects


2022-2023. PIBAA CONICET. Phylogenomic studies and chromosome speciation in pest Acridids of crops and forages of Argentina. Principal Investigator.  

2022-2023. The Theodore J. Cohn Research Fund. The Orthopterists´ Society, USA. Are Andean species of Jivarus Giglio-Tos, 1898 the most ancient stock of South American Melanoplinae? Molecular phylogeny and chromosome evolution. Principal Investigator.

2018-2021. PICT-2016-0127. Systematic of the genus Dichroplus Stål, 1873 (Orthoptera: Acridoidea: Melanoplinae) based on molecular, morphological and cytogenetic evidence. Principal Investigator.

2023- PICT-2020-01971. Structural genomic variants as triggers of diversification and adaptation in two grasshoppers' groups. Principal Investigator: Dr. Confalonieri, Viviana. Buenos Aires University (UBA). Group Member.

2018- PICT-2018-01187. Eco-Evolutionary genomics of transposable elements in chromosome inversions. Interdisciplinary study in two biological models Trimerotropis pallidipennis y Wasmannia auropunctata. Principal investigator: Dr. Noelia Guzmán. Buenos Aires University (UBA). Group Member.

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Friedrich Schiller University Jena

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