Inside the Tangled Bank of Arthropods


We unravel the molecular-genetic mechanisms of hybrid dysfunction, herbivory, and pesticide resistance. One of the major research lines dissects the mechanistic underpinnings of symbiont-host interactions. We use interdisciplinary approaches to study the molecular architecture of these complex traits.




>>> Together with Thomas Parmentier, we published a first chapter in our study of the causes and consequences of granivory in silverfish. CLICK HERE.
We collected silverfish species that interact differently with ants. Our collection of myrmecophilous silverfish included obligate generalists and specialists.
To study their feeding ecologies, we combined stable isotope profiling, feeding assays, phylogenetic reconstruction, and microbiome analyses.
We show that the social interactions of Messor-specialized silverfish shape their trophic niche, suggestive of a granivorous lifestyle. Controlled feeding assays confirm that these silverfish can feed on plant seeds.
We further uncover that these Messor-specialized silverfish carry different bacterial symbionts compared to congeneric silverfish with a broad ant host range.
Here, Weissella bacteria display a remarkable association with a granivorous lifestyle.

>>> Lennert, Tessa, and Kobe recently submitted their master dissertations and are about to defend.

>>> We were visited by Steven Van Belleghem and his group, a first of many mutual lab days!




>>> Our study of the underlying mechanisms and relevance of Wolbachia-induced sex allocation distortion (Sd) in haplodiploids has been published this summer in Heredity! GO TO ARTICLE! Sd is an often neglected symbiont-mediated reproductive phenotype in haplodiploids. We show that Wolbachia-mediated Sd is driven by increasing egg provisioning, facilitating egg fertilization and subsequent female development. This physiological effect is contingent on the female host genotype and can cause larger adult offspring. Our simulations show that Sd is able to remove the threshold for Wolbachia invasion under certain realistic conditions.

>>> Presented the group's ongoing work at ECE 2023 (Greece).
>>> Lennert and Kobe started their labwork for their master dissertation. Lennert is dissecting the role of ecology in postzygotic isolation in Tetranychus mites, while Kobe is studying the microbial community of ants and myrmecophilous beetles.


A great deal of exciting news to announce;

- In a long-running study led by Silke and Yu-Hsien, we identified and characterized a salivary enzyme of an insect herbivore that mediates a volatile plant signal that attracts predators. We shed light on its complex evolutionary origins and uncovered a role in fundamental developmental processes. Click HERE for more info.

- Awesome science, people, and ambience at Wolbachia2023 (Greece)!

- We have a new vacancy for a PhD fellow! This project will help to unravel the impact of symbionts on the evolution of herbivory and reproduction in insects and mites. Click HERE for more information. I would be happy to answer questions about the position, work, and our group!