Enrique P. Lessa

July 2015


Departamento de Ecología y Evolución

Facultad de Ciencias

Universidad de la República

Montevideo, Uruguay
(+598) 2525 8618 ext 7-143





EducationCurrent positionsAdditional informationAwards and FellowshipsPublicationsStudents and postdocsVersión en español




research profile

Since its inception in 1992, my lab has worked on several aspects of the evolution and systematics of vertebrates, with emphasis on mammals.  Although our studies frequently use molecular data, they are normally directed at examining aspects of the biology of organisms, species and phylogenetic groups.  Our research typically includes field work, voucher museum specimen preparation (skins, skeletons, tissues), and laboratory work mainly directed at generating DNA sequences. We then use tools of phylogenetics and population genetics to generate and test hypotheses on the basis of molecular and other data.


In recent years, we have made efforts to incorporate genome-scale approaches to the study of diverse questions in phylogenetics and population genetics.  For example, a group project recently included the characterization of urine concentration abilities in mice of southern South America, along an environmental gradient--from the Patagonian steppe to the Valdivian and Magellanic forests--and the concomitant examination of differential gene expression in the kidney. More generally, we have explored the responses of mammals to latitudinal gradients and glacial climate cycles, using genetic and physiological approaches.


New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM, EE.UU.


Ph.D. in Biology; minor: Experimental Statistics

Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay


Licenciado en Ciencias Biológicas (B.Sc., Biology)

current positions

Professor of Evolution | Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República

1992 – date

Adjunct Professor & Curator | Biology Department & Museum of Southwestern Biology, University of New Mexico

2005 – date


£  Google Scholar

£  CVUy

£  Researcher, PEDECIBA (Program for the Development of Basic Sciences, Universidad de la República-Ministry of Education and Culture, Uruguay), 1989-date.

£  Director of PEDECIBA (Program for the Development of Basic Sciences, Universidad de la República-Ministry of Education and Culture of Uruguay), period 2008-2012.

£  Member, Academia Nacional de Ciencias del Uruguay

£  Corresponding Member, Academia Nacional de Ciencias Exactas, Físicas y Naturales, Argentina

awards, fellowships

£  1990-1992. Alfred P. Sloan Postdoctoral Fellowship for Molecular Studies of Evolution.  Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, EE.UU (faculty sponsor: James L. Patton).

£  1999-2000. John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship.  Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, Cambridge, EE.UU (faculty host: John Wakeley).

£  2010. Joseph Grinnell Award for Excellence in Education in Mammalogy.  American Society of Mammalogists.

£  2010. SAREM (Sociedad Argentina para el Estudio de los Mamíferos) Award (for academic trajectory). 

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selected publications

£  Giorello, Facundo M, Matías Feijoo, Guillermo D’Elía, Lourdes Valdez, Juan C Opazo, Valeria Varas, Daniel E Naya, & Enrique P Lessa. 2014. “Characterization of the Kidney Transcriptome of the South American Olive Mouse Abrothrix olivacea.” BMC Genomics 15: 446. doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-446.

£  Lessa, Enrique P, Joseph A Cook, Guillermo D’Elía, & Juan C Opazo. 2014. “Rodent Diversity in South America: Transitioning into the Genomics Era.” Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 2 (July): 1–7. doi:10.3389/fevo.2014.00039.

£  Tomasco, Ivanna H., & Enrique P. Lessa. 2011. “The Evolution of Mitochondrial Genomes in Subterranean Caviomorph Rodents: Adaptation against a Background of Purifying Selection.” Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 61 (1): 64–70. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.06.014.

£  Lessa, Enrique P., Guillermo D’ElÍa, & Ulyses F J Pardiñas. 2010. “Genetic Footprints of Late Quaternary Climate Change in the Diversity of Patagonian-Fueguian Rodents.” Molecular Ecology 19 (15): 3031–37. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2010.04734.x.

£  Lessa, Enrique P, Joseph A Cook, & James L Patton. 2003. “Genetic Footprints of Demographic Expansion in North America, but Not Amazonia, during the Late Quaternary.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100 (18): 10331–34. doi:10.1073/pnas.1730921100.

graduate students and postdocs

£  Former postdoctoral research associates: Leo Joseph, Matías Mora (Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata), Santiago Ceballos (CADIC-Conicet, Ushuaia).

£  Former doctoral students: Graciela García, María J. Sanz Martín (Universidad de Alcalá de Henares), Ivanna Tomasco, Juan C. Opazo (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile), Bettina Tassino, Alejandro D’Anatro, Santiago Ceballos, Alejandro Márquez, Matías Feijoo.

£  Former masters students: Guillermo D’Elía, María Noel Cortinas, Federico Hoffmann, Gabriela Wlasiuk, María L. Lázaro, Virginia Little, Ivanna Tomasco, Alejandro D’Anatro, Andrés Parada, Sabrina Riverón, Cecilia Da Silva, Carolina Abud, Matías Feijoo, Facundo Giorello.

£  Current students: Natalia Rego (M.Sc.), Facundo Giorello (Ph.D.).

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