Photo: Florian Boucher

© 2016 biological interactions

Former Member

Department of Botany and Zoology


biological interactions

Dr Florian Boucher

I am an evolutionary ecologist interested in the origins of diversity in plants. My research ranges from the processes driving speciation to large-scale macroevolutionary patterns, always with a strong focus on geographic context and on the link between plant form and abiotic factors. Most of this work uses plants from extreme environments as model systems. During my PhD in Grenoble (France) and my previous postdoc in Zürich (Switzerland) I have studied the origins of the Alpine flora, including the processes driving speciation and the evolution of species’ ecological niches. In parallel to my empirical work, I also develop macroevolutionary models for characters evolving on phylogenies with the hope that these tools will provide more detailed insights into macroevolutionary mechanisms.

More details about my research can be found on my website.


My current research addresses the role of plant size on rates of diversification. This very simple trait indeed has deep consequences on many ecological and evolutionary processes like metabolic rates, dispersal distance, population size, or rates of speciation. While the ecological and evolutionary consequences of body size have been explored in the details in animals, much less is known regarding its role in plants.

During this project I will focus on dwarf succulent plants from the Succulent Karoo of South Africa. The Succulent Karoo is indeed a hotspot of plant richness, despite being a very harsh, topographically uniform, and extremely recent environment. High rates of speciation of dwarf succulent lineages might largely explain this exceptional richness, but the ultimate processes causing these high speciation rates remain largely unknown. Extremely reduced gene flow and strong divergent selection, in particular for edaphic preferences, are our main suspects!

Current Research


Boucher, F.C., Démery, V., Conti, E., Harmon, L. J. & Uyeda, J. (Accepted) A general model for estimating macroevolutionary landscapes. Systematic Biology.

Boucher, F.C., Verboom, G.A., Musker, S. & Ellis, A.G. (Accepted). Plant size: a key determinant of diversification? New Phytologist. DOI: 10.1111/nph.14697

Theodoridis, S., Randin, C., Szövényi, P., Boucher, F.C., Patsiou, T. & Conti, E. (2017) How Do Cold-Adapted Plants Respond to Climatic Cycles? Interglacial Expansion Explains Current Distribution and Genomic Diversity in Primula farinosa L. Systematic Biology. DOI: 10.1093/sysbio/syw114

Cassaza, G., Boucher, F.C., Minuto, L., Randin, C. & Conti E. (2017) Do floral and niche shifts favour the establishment and persistence of newly arisen polyploids? A case study in an Alpine primrose. Annals of Botany. In press


Boucher, F.C., Casazza, G., Szövényi, P. & Conti E. (2016) Sequence capture using RAD probes clarifies phylogenetic relationships and species delimitations in Primula sect. Auricula. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 104, 60-72.

Boucher, F. C., Lavergne, S., Basile, M., Choler, P. & Aubert, S. (2016) Evolution and biogeography of the cushion life form in Angiosperms. Perspectives in Plant Ecology, Evolution and Systematics. 20, 22:31.

Boucher, F.C. & Démery V.  (2016) Inferring bounded evolution in phenotypic characters from phylogenetic comparative data. Systematic Biology. 65 (4): 651

Gallien, L., Saladin, B., Boucher, F.C., Richardson, D. & Zimmermann, N. (2016) The legacy of historical biogeography shapes current invasiveness in pines. New Phytologist. DOI: 10.1111/nph.13700

Boucher, F.C., Zimmermann, N. & Conti, E. (2016) Allopatric speciation with little niche divergence is common among Alpine Primulaceae. Journal of Biogeography. DOI : 10.1111/jbi.12652


Münkemüller, T., Boucher, F.C., Thuiller, W. & Lavergne, S. (2015) Phylogenetic niche conservatism – common pitfalls and ways forward. Functional Ecology. 29, 627-639


Boucher, F.C., Thuiller, W., Davies, T.J. & Lavergne, S. (2014) Neutral biogeography and the evolution of climatic niches. The American Naturalist. 183, 573-584

Aubert, S., Boucher, F.C., Lavergne, S., Renaud, J. & Choler, P. (2014) 1914-2014: A revised worldwide catalogue of cushion plants 100 years after Hauri & Schröter. Alpine Botany. 124, 59-71


Roquet, C.*, Boucher, F.C.*, Thuiller, W. & Lavergne, S. (2013) Replicated radiations of the alpine genus Androsace (Primulaceae) driven by range expansion and convergent key innovations. Journal of Biogeography. 40: 1874-1886 * Equal contributions

Boucher, F.C., Thuiller, W., Arnoldi, C., Albert, C.H., Lavergne, S. (2013) Unravelling the architecture of functional variability in wild populations of Polygonum viviparum L. Functional Ecology. 27, 382–391.


Boucher, F.C., Thuiller, W., Roquet, C., Douzet, R., Aubert, S., Alvarez, N. & Lavergne, S. (2012) Reconstructing the origin of high-alpine niches and cushion life form in the genus Androsace (Primulaceae). Evolution. 66, 1255–1268


Albert, C.H., Thuiller, W., Yoccoz, N.G., Soudan, A., Boucher, F., Saccone, P. and Lavorel, S. (2010) Intraspecific functional variability: extent, structure and sources of variation within an alpine valley. Journal of Ecology. 98, 604–613