Theoretical Evolutionary Ecology Group


    Rules for optimal timing

    Possibly no single other attribute defines fitness as much as doing the right thing in the right moment. But how can organism know the right time – and what if they simply cannot know it exactly? In an ongoing SFB project we are cooperating with our SFB partners to solve just such questions.
    Limited season length, unpredictable habitat heterogeneity, and avoidance of competition with conspecifics  should shape the optimal timing of traits like individual spring emergence or onset of sexual production in social insect colonies. In addition to ultimate evolutionary mechanisms we also investigate the proximate triggers of behavioral transition based on long term climate data and extensive data from lab experiments.

    Involved: Oliver Mitesser, Thomas Hovestadt, Hans Joachim Poethke. Financial support: SFB 1047 “Insect Timing”. Cooperations: SFB partners, Tobias Degen

    Dispersal, movement and local adaptation in heterogeneous landscapes

    The survival of individuals depends on their ability to cope with variable and changing conditions in space and time. When facing such challenges,individuals can either track varying conditions by moving and dispersing, or populations gradually adapt to novel conditions, or populations evolve the ability to tolerate stochastic environments. Otherwise, extinction is inevitable.
    We investigate several aspects of this problem. One focus is the analysis of optimal movement (including the empirical observation of butterfly movement) and dispersal decisions (and their timing) in dependence of various external factors and information availability. We are further interested in the role of phenotypic plasticity and epigenetic changes including their interactions with dispersal (evolution) in temporally changing landscapes.

    Involved: Alexander Kubisch, Adam Körösi, Milica Lakovic, Thomas Hovestadt, Hans Joachim Poethke. Financial support: DFG HO2051/3, KU /1. Cooperations: Emanuel Fronhofer, Ophelie Ronce, Frank Schurr

    Cooperation and interaction in social insects

    Social insects dominate many animal communities around the world – and they provide an exciting template to understand the evolution of cooperation and sociality. With our cooperating partners we develop theories to understand the evolution of social ineractions and sociality in its early stages (‘primitive’ social insects) and to explain various aspects of life-history evolution and resource allocation in annual and perenneial eusocial insects.
    Due to their tremendeous success colonies provide concentrations of attractive resources and are thus aluable targets for a multitude of other species. For years we are interested in understanding the rules of interaction and coevolution going on in such systems, especially in the famous Maculiunea-Myrmica (butterfly-ant) or between Microdon hoverflies and the Formica host ants.

    Involved: Thomas Hovestadt, Oliver Mitesser, Hans Joachim Poethke. Financial support: SFB 1047 “Insect Timing”. Cooperations: Erhard Strohm, Jeremy Thomas, Karsten Schönrogge, Emanuel Fronhofer


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