Scientific research

Adaptation of living organisms

A molecule, a gene, a cell, an organism, a community - how do all these elements function in an ecosystem? Our researchers decipher the mechanisms and functional links at different levels of organisation of living organisms.

A molecule, a gene, a cell, an organism, a community - how do all these elements function in an ecosystem? Our researchers decipher the mechanisms and functional links at different levels of organisation of living organisms.

Watching a wildlife documentary, walking in the forest, observing under the microscope, any chance is a good one for admiring the diversity of living organisms. These moments fill us with wonder and raise so many questions... How do organisms develop, feed, behave and function? Do they coexist or interact within their environment? What are they made of and how do some of them resist the most extreme temperatures, deep waters, arid deserts? Consider that tardigrades, these “micro-bears”, can survive in both outer space and ice! Nature still conceals many unsuspected mysteries and the Department of Adaptation of Living Organisms is constantly interested in them. Its researchers explore the diversity of forms and functions at all scales of organisation, within land and aquatic ecosystems. Microscopic beings or gigantic species are studied with the same fervour, from their molecular composition to their interactions with their environment. This work often requires a dive into the heart of cells...

DNA is your internal programme and defines who you are, but did you know that the way it is folded itself controls certain traits? This phenomenon could, for example, play a role in the pathogenicity of certain agents such as the parasite responsible for malaria. A lot of other work is looking at development and biological functioning under normal or modified conditions, particularly under the influence of environmental factors such as endocrine disruptors. Studies are also being carried out on longevity, the regeneration of organs such as the heart, and even a mouse capable of staying slim despite a high-fat diet! Discovered in the United States in the 1960s, this species, envied by many, still keeps its secret safe.

At the Museum, our scientists are also interested in behaviour. But staying in a location out in the wild for hours on end for observations is not easy! As a solution, a team has co-developed a system called Etholoop. Cameras combined with a computer programme that reconstructs the movements of animals in a real life, such as those of small lemurs, make it possible to study reactions to external events, such as rewards or the occurrence of obstacles.

Our researchers are also inspired by the exceptional properties of certain species to develop innovative tools or materials for humans. This bio-inspired approach has spin-offs in a wide range of fields such as architecture, robotics and health. “Warm-blooded" animals, for example, have a lot to teach us about thermoregulation, which is very instructive for the thermal optimisation of a building.

Finally, teams observe and describe biodiversity in order to contribute to its preservation. One of our laboratories scrutinises aquatic flora in a wide variety of environments: mangroves, Antarctic waters, the North Sea, freshwater on a global scale, the Seine estuary and even... the gutters of Paris! Its members also navigate the southern waters to monitor fish populations and issue recommendations on fishing techniques and quotas.

Le département Adaptation du Vivant (Department of Adaptation of Living Orgnisms)

With its 5 research units, this department deals with the mechanisms behind the diversity of forms and functions of living organisms. It deciphers the adaptation mechanisms of organisms, including micro-organisms, to their environment and the stresses they undergo. It develops functional, comparative, multidisciplinary and integrative approaches.


The Laboratory of biology of aquatic organisms and ecosystems (BOREA) studies the ecology and biology of aquatic organisms and habitats in natural and impacted ecosystems.

View the BOREA unit website


The Communication Molecules and Adaptation of Microorganisms unit (MCAM) is a multidisciplinary centre of environmental microbiology at the Museum. Its objectives are to explore the biodiversity of microorganisms and to understand their place and role in the maintenance, balance and evolution of ecosystems.

View the MCAM unit website


Adaptive Mechanisms and Evolution  (MECADEV) studies the processes of adaptation and evolution in all kinds of organisms, animals and plants, in the face of natural and anthropogenic environmental constraints, present and past, in order to understand their evolution.

View the MECADEV unit website


The Molecular Physiology and Adaptation unit (PHYMA) studies development, tissue regeneration and ageing. Their work focuses on the impact of environmental factors, such as endocrine disruptors, on brain development and vertebrate physiology, with the aim of highlighting processes that contribute to the creation of biodiversity, its plasticity and its evolution.

View the PHYMA unit website

STRING UMR 7196 / U 1154

The research of the Structure and Instability of Genomes Laboratory (STRING) focuses on nucleic acids, their structures, their dynamics and their interactions with different cellular partners. Their specificity is to exploit their expertise at the interface between chemistry, biophysics, biochemistry and biology, by developing an interdisciplinary approach.

View the STRING unit website