- 1999 - 2003 Habilitation in Zoology
- 1993 - 1997 Dr. rer. nat. (PhD) Biology
- 1988 - 1993 Diplom in Biology
- since 2016 Professor for molecular Evolution
- since 2016 Research Professor
- 2012 - 2016 Professor (full)
- 2008 - 2015 Associate Director for Graduate Studies
- 2007 - 2012 Associate Professor (tenure) - Arizona State University
- 2005 - 2007 Assistant Professor (tenure track)
- 2003 - 2005 Assistant Professor (non-tenure)
- 1999 - 2003 Assistant Professor (non-tenure)
- 05.1997Feordor Lynen - Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung
- Evolution & Biodiversität der Tiere
- Evolutionary Genomics and Sociobiology
- The Growth of the Evolutionary Thought (involved)
- Evolutionary Genomics and Sociobiology
Sociogemomics has two basic meanings, first it can refer to the study of genomes of social organisms or second it can be the study of the genomic basis of social behavior. We are interested in both and use genomic, transcriptomic, proteomic and epigenetic methods to study the basis and structure of social genomes and social behavior.
Evolution of social traits in the ant genus Pogonomyrmex and Myrmecocystus. Pogonomyrmex and Myrmecocystus are New World genera that inhabit mesic and dry habitats in North and South America and North America, respectively. Currently about 100 species have been described for Pogonomyrmex and about 30 species for Myrmecocystus.
In collaboration with RE Robertson (ASU) and Corrie Moreaux (Field Museum Chicago) we are generating a molecular phylogeny for Pogonomyrmex and working on improving the Myrmecocystus phylogeny we generated about 10 years ago. We have determined the social structure of several species in terms of mating frequency and queen number to understand the evolution and genetic and environmental basis of the observed variation in social structure in these ant genera. This also involves the study of two social parasitic species that have lost their worker caste and two species that evolved a derived genetic caste determination system. To elucidate the evolution of these two interesting variations of social behavior we use phylogeographic approaches.
One specific question we are currently trying to answer is the evolution and maintenance of primary polygyny that has evolved independently in Myrmecocystus mendax and Pogonomyrmex californicus. Most populations of these two species found their colonies as single queens and each mature colony has only one queen. However, both species have isolated populations that show primary polygyny, i.e. unrelated queens found a colony together and remain multiqueen societies. One of our studies is currently tackling the evolution and developmental regulation of aggression and cooperation/tolerance in Pogonomyrmex californicus.
2. Evolution and genetic architecture of chemical communication
We use a combination of detailed phenotypic analysis (GC-MS, quantitative genetics (QTL analysis,qPCR), genetic manipulations (CRISPR/CAS, dsRNAi) to determine and confirm which genes/gene families are involved in chemical communication involved in colony, caste and species recognition. For example, we study the evolution of gene families involved in chemical communication (desaturase, olfactory and chemical receptor proteins, etc.) in insects in general and Pogonomyrmex and members of a parasitoid wasp genus Nasonia spp. in particular.
Nasonia is the “other” Hymenopteran model organism besides the honeybee. Nasonia spp. has a generation time of app. 14 days and we can produce hybrids in the laboratory once the lines are cured from its endoparasite Wolbachia, which otherwise causes cytoplasmic incompatibility. In Nasonia we can map, identify and confirm almost any interspecific variable trait within 6-12 month. So far we mapped male wing and body size differences, male courtship behavior, components of the cuticular hydrocarbon profile, developmental traits (craniofacial anomalies), nuclear-cytoplasmic incompatibilities, etc..
Nasonia males differ significantly in their cuticular hydrocarbon profile (also used as species and sex signal) and we are using hybrid crosses to map QTL and eventually identify the genes underlying those differences.
3. Speciation – Mechanisms and Processes
Pre- and Postzygotic isolation - Under the biological species concept, speciation is the evolution of hybridization barriers. We have a long-term interest in discovering genes underlying pre- and postzygotic isolation in Nasonia spp.