Laura Japke

PhD Student

© Pixabay

Evolution and Sexual Conflict Group
Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity
Hüfferstr. 1
D-48149 Münster, Germany
Tel.: +49 251/83-21091

Nationality: German De


  • Since 2018:
    PhD studies in the Evolution and Sexual Conflict Group, Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, University of Münster, Germany
  • 2015 - 2018:
    Master of Science in Biology (M.Sc.), University of Marburg, Germany
    Master's thesis: "Ant aggression towards native and invasive lady beetle species and role of cuticular hydrocarbons for competitor recognition" supervised by Dr. Roman Bucher
  • 2011 - 2015:
    Bachelor of Science in Biology (B.Sc.), Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany
    Bachelor's thesis: "Next-Generation Sequencing of 16S amplicons for analyzes of the microbiome of four Central European amphibian species" supervised by Prof. Dr. Miguel Vences

Work Experience

  • 2017
    Animal keeper at pet shelter in Marburg/Cappel, Germany
  • 2016
    Internship at Zoo Frankfurt


  • Dr. Claudia Fricke, Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity, Evolution and Sexual Conflict Group, University of Münster
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Research interests

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PhD project description

Social niche-mediated phenotypes in Drosophila melanogaster

Changing environments can lead to an increase in selection pressure. To deal with environmental changes (e.g. stochastic events, climatic changes) organisms can display high phenotypic plasticity as a short-term immediate response and/or adapt as a long-term evolutionary response. Since rapid environmental changes are common in the current century, the ability to adapt to these changing conditions is essential for population persistence, but can lead to fluctuations in population structure. Changes in population structure due to environmental change is expected to alter interactions between individuals with the potential to influence the evolvability of a population. During my PhD, I want to study the effects of population density, one key parameter likely to be altered by changing environmental conditions, on Drosophila melanogaster life-history parameters. In order to test, whether cues and information gathered during early life history stages influence adult reproductive traits, I will manipulate the developmental social environment of D. melanogaster. I predict the developmental social niche to shape reproductive traits in adults as the larval density experienced informs the individual about the level of reproductive competition to expect. I expect D. melanogaster flies to show phenotypic plasticity and develop a matching phenotype that will allow them to successfully compete and maximize fitness gains. If these conditions persist longer-term, I expect flies to adapt to low or high density conditions. To test these hypotheses, I will keep larvae of D. melanogaster under low or high population density conditions for only one generations or over multiple. I will test with different experimental designs, if the information gained within these contrasting developmental social environments shape adult behavior, morphology, and reproductive success in females and males. Therefore, I will measure reproductive success (e.g. number of offspring, offspring survival), longevity, and behavior (e.g. aggression, courtship behavior etc.) to test for differences between the two environments (low or high density) and whether this plasticity facilitates optimal fitness benefits. Furthermore, a long-term evolutionary experiment will be conducted to test for long-term adaption. To test for the hypothesized changes due to the long-term exposure to different social environments, we will measure phenotypic (morphology, behavior, reproductive success) responses and combine this with an ‘Evolve-and-Resequence’ approach to unravel the genetic basis of the exposure to the different social environments.


  • Bucher R, Japke LM, Ünlü AG, Menzel F (2021) Interactions of ants with native and invasive lady beetles and the role of chemical cues in intraguild interference. Chemoecology [epub ahead of print] 10.1007/s00049-021-00354-4 [doi]
  • Bletz MC, Perl RGB, Bobowski BT, Japke LM, Tebbe CC, Dohrmann AB, Bhuju S, Geffers R, Jarek M & Vences M (2017). Amphibian skin microbiota exhibits temporal variation in community structure but stability of predicted Bd-inhibitory function. The ISME Journal 11:1521-1534. 10.1038/ismej.2017.41 [doi]