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© Jan Büllesbach


Dr. Jan Büllesbach

Professorship for Molecular Evolutionary Biology (Prof. Gadau)

Hüfferstraße 1
48149 Münster

Evolution of chemical communication – Deciphering common elements in the chemical language of insects

As the earliest and most wide-spread form of communication, chemical signaling has permeated through all known taxa of life. Insects, in particular, have exploited chemical signaling as their primary mode of communication. The overarching aim of my research is to investigate the chemical language of insects and the corresponding adaptation mechanisms that gave rise to the astonishing diversity of signaling molecules found in this remarkable, most species-rich class in the animal kingdom. Thereby, I pursue an interdisciplinary approach through the combination of evolutionary biology, chemical ecology, functional genetics, comparative genomics, behavioral biology, and analytical chemistry. The evolution of species- and sex-specific pheromone phenotypes and their influence on mate recognition, assortative mating, behavioral isolation and, ultimately, speciation, has thereby always played a prominent role throughout my research.


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    Fabian Schweitzer, PhD Student

    Genomic and gene regulatory basis of rapid evolutionary diversification of a multifunctional trait

    Co-supervision with with Oliver Niehuis and Volker Nehring

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    Weizhao Sun, PhD student

    Genetic, chemical and behavioral investigation of sexual signaling evolution in parasitoid wasps

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    Bachelor student Clara Lindner
    Thesis title: “Male mate choice differentiation between allopatric species of the parasitoid jewel wasp Nasonia”

    Marius Michael Caspers
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    Bachelor student Marius Michael Caspers
    Thesis title: “Aggression between different chemotypes in the carpenter ant Camponotus maculatus

    Bachelor Student: Louisa Bokern

    Bachelor student: Andreas Legat

    Bachelor student: Robin Weiß (co-supervision with Mark Lammers)

    Bachelor student: Tobias Laukamp

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    Student helper: Selina Paczkowski


    Kristina Emke
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    Student helper: Kristina Emke


    Simon Plösch
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    Bachelor student Simon Plösch
    Thesis title: “Investigation of genes under positive selection for higher eusociality in the termite Reticulitermes flavipes

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    Marek Jürgen Golian

    Voluntary self organized students project: The surface microbiome and its effects on cuticular hydrocarbon variation in Nasonia

    Bachelor student (until August 2020)

    Chemical and phylogenetic divergence in Blattodea: Signatures of social complexity

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    Stella Victoria Schummer, Bachelor student

    Species-, strain- and sex specific cuticular hydrocarbon variation and quantification in Nasonia

    Michelle Ina Lange

    The role of fas genes for desiccation resistance in the jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis

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    Bachelor student Tobias Jonathan Gryczan
    Thesis title: “Chemical caste differentiation and related microbiome diversity in Myrmecocystes Honeypot ants”

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    Master student Quoc Hung Le
    Thesis title: “Beyond cuticular hydrocarbons: Investigation and identification of the volatile polar dimension in insect surface profiles

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    Murat Bakırdöven, PhD student

    Genetic, chemical and behavioural studies of sexual communication in the aphid parasitoid Aphidius ervi

    co-supervision with Mark Lammers

    Lisa Sewald

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    Bachelor student

    Effects of cuticular hydrocarbon biosynthesis genes on female attractiveness of the jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis

    Leanne Sophie Westhoff

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    Bachelor student

    “Identification of surface profiles in aquatic and basal arthropods”

    Marília Fischer

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    Bachelor student

    “Analysis of cuticular hydrocarbon profiles in male hybrids of closely related Nasonia species”

    Leonie Reuter

    Bachelor student

    “The influence of different egg chemotypes on the policing behaviour in Camponotus maculatus”

    Theresa Reimann

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    Bachelor student

    “Chemical differentiation during the development of a novel caste in the ant Myrmecocystus mendax”

    Eyleen Wiese

    Bachelor student

    “Annotation of the CHC biosynthesis gene repertoire in the invasive ant Cardiocondyla obscurior”

    Melanie Gleske

    Master student

     “Quantification of differences in the chemical profiles of Reticulitermes flavipes termites in different stages of infection with blastospores of Metarhizium anisopliae”

    Anastasia Dzemiantsei

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    Bachelor student

    Genetic and physiological aspects of desiccation resistance in parasitoid wasps

    Hannah Paulina Vogt

    Hannah P Vogt
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    Bachelor student

    Optimization of RNAi gene knockdown and qPCR in Nasonia

    Felicitas Fleischer

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    Bachelor student

    Male courtship and mating behaviour of Nasonia giraulti in context of cuticular hydrocarbon communication

    Sandra Tretter

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    Bachelor student

    Chemical profiling and differences in aggressive behaviour between haplometrotic and pleometrotic populations of the ant Pogonomyrmex californicus

    co-supervision with Ulrich Rainer Ernst

    Maja Drakula

    Maja _2_
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    Bachelor student

    Cuticular hydrocarbon profiling and aggression in Cardiocondyla obscurior

    co-supervision with Lukas Schrader

    Nina Franke

    Bachelor student

    Targeted knockdown of CHC biosynthesis genes in Nasonia

    Henrietta Holze

    Bachelor student

    Signatures of selection in candidate genes for CHC variation in parasitoid wasps


    Kathrin Brüggemann


  • Professional Carreer 

    Since 2018: Scientific assistant at the Institute for Evolution and Biodiversity at the University of Münster, Germany

    2016 - 2018: Research scholar at the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management
    University of California, Berkeley, USA

    2013 - 2016: Scientific manager of the Excellence Initiative Graduate School “Jena School for Microbial Communication”, Jena, Germany

    2012 - 2013: Scientific consultant and project manager at Aldebaran, Hamburg, Germany and Overtaal, Utrecht, The Netherlands

    2011 - 2012: Postdoctoral research scholar at the Department of Entomology, North Carolina State University, USA

    2007 - 2010: Research associate at the Department of Evolutionary Biology and Animal Ecology, University of Freiburg, Germany and at the School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, USA


  • Education

    2007 - 2010: PhD in Evolutionary Biology and Chemical Ecology at the University of Freiburg, Germany and at the Arizona State University, Tempe, USA

    2006 - 2007: Postgraduate / Master studies in Bioinformatics at the University of Cologne, Germany

    2003 - 2006: Graduate studies in Biology at the University of Muenster, Germany

    2003: Semester abroad at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA

    2000 - 2002: Undergraduate studies in Biology at the University of Muenster, Germany


  • Selected Publications

    Whyte B., Sandidge R., Buellesbach J., Cash E., Scheckel K., Gibson J.D., Tsutsui N. (2022) “Body size and cuticular hydrocarbon composition determine desiccation resistance in the invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile)” submitted to Journal of Experimental Biology

    Leung, K., Beukeboom, L.W., Buellesbach J. (2022) “Novel insights into insect chemical communication – an introduction”. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 170: 286- 288.

    Golian M., Bien T., Schmelzle S., Esparza-Mora M.A., McMahon D.P., Dreisewerd K., Buellesbach J. (2022) “Neglected very long-chain hydrocarbons and the incorporation of body surface area metrics reveal novel perspectives for cuticular profile analysis in insects”. Insects, 13(1), 83

    Möckel, L.; Meusemann, K.; Misof, B.; Schwartze, V.U.; De Fine Licht, H.H.; Voigt, K.; Stielow, B.; de Hoog, S.; Beutel, R.G.; Buellesbach, J. (2022) “Phylogenetic revision and patterns of host specificity in the fungal subphylum Entomophthoromycotina”. Microorganisms, 10(2): 256

    Buellesbach J., Holze H., Schrader L., Liebig J., Schmitt T., Gadau J., Niehuis, O. (2021) “Genetic and genomic architecture of species-specific cuticular hydrocarbon variation in parasitoid wasps”. bioRxiv, 10.18.464893

    Buellesbach, J., Diao, W., Schmitt, T. and Beukeboom, L.W. (2021), “Micro-climate correlations and conserved sexual dimorphism of cuticular hydrocarbons in European populations of the jewel wasp Nasonia vitripennis”. Ecological Entomology, 47(1): 38-51

    Holze, H., Schrader, L. & Buellesbach, J. (2020) “Advances in deciphering the genetic basis of insect cuticular hydrocarbon biosynthesis and variation. Heredity, 126(2): 219–234

    Dennis A.B., Ballesteros, G.I., Robin, S., Schrader, L., Bast, J., Berghöfer, J., Beukeboom, L.W., Belghazi, M., Bretaudeau, A., Buellesbach J. et al. (2020) “Functional insights from the GC-poor genomes of two aphid parasitoids, Aphidius ervi and Lysiphlebus fabarum”, BMC Genomics, 21(1): 376.

    Buellesbach J., Whyte B., Cash E., Gibson J.D., Scheckel K., Sandidge R., Tsutsui N. (2018) “Desiccation resistance and micro-climate adaptation: Cuticular hydrocarbon signatures of different Argentine ant supercolonies across California”, Journal of Chemical Ecology, 44(12):1101-1114

    Buellesbach J., Cash E., Schmitt T. (2018) “Communication, insects”, in “Encyclopedia of Reproduction, Second Edition”, Volume 6, Elsevier Science Publishing Co Inc, San Diego, USA

    Buellesbach J.*, Vetter S.G*., Schmitt T. (2018) “Differences in the reliance on cuticular hydrocarbons as sexual signaling and species discrimination cues in parasitoid wasps”, (*Authors contributed equally), Frontiers in Zoology, 15:22

    Buellesbach J. (2018) “Pheromone Communication Systems in the Nasonia Species Complex” in “Advances in Animal Science and Zoology” Volume 11, Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge NY, USA

    Buellesbach J., Watt J.R., Shuker D.M. (2017). “Nasonia Wasp Behavior Genetics” in “Reference Module in Life Sciences”, Elsevier, 978-0-12-809633-8

    Buellesbach J., Schmitt T. (2015) “The role of cuticular hydrocarbon-based chemical communication in prezygotic reproductive isolation” in “Animal Communication and Cognition: Principles, Evolution and Development”, Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge NY, USA

    Buellesbach J., Greim C., Raychoudhury R., Schmitt T.  (2014) “Asymmetric interspecific mating behavior reflects incomplete prezygotic isolation in the jewel wasp Nasonia”, Ethology 120 (8):834-843

    Buellesbach J., Gadau J., Beukeboom L.W., Echinger F., Raychoudhury R., Werren J.H., Schmitt T.  (2013) “Cuticular hydrocarbon divergence in males and females of the jewel wasp genus Nasonia: Evolutionary shifts in chemical communication?”, Journal of Evolutionary Biology 26(11):2467-2478

    *Niehuis O., *Buellesbach J., *Gibson J.D., Pothman D., Hanner C., Mutti N., Judson A.K., Liebig J., Gadau J., *Ruther J., Schmitt T.  (2013) “Behavioural and genetic analysis on Nasonia shed light on the evolution of sex pheromones”, (*Authors contributed equally), Nature 494(7437):345-348

    Giesbers M., Gerritsma S., Buellesbach J., Diao W., Pannebakker B.A., van de Zande L., Schmitt T., Beukeboom L.W. “Prezygotic Isolation in the Parasitoid Wasp Genus Nasonia” in “Speciation: Natural Processes, Genetics and Biodiversity” (2013), Nova Science Publishers, Hauppauge NY, USA

    *Niehuis O., *Buellesbach J., Judson A.K., Schmitt T., Gadau J. (2011) “Genetics of cuticular hydrocarbon differences between males of the parasitoid wasps Nasonia giraulti and Nasonia vitripennis”, (*Authors contributed equally), Heredity 107(1):61-70

    Raychoudhury R., Desjardins C.A., Buellesbach J., Loehlin D.W., Grillenberger B.K., Beukeboom L., Schmitt T., Werren, J.H. (2010) “Behavioral and genetic characteristics of a new species of Nasonia“, Heredity 104(3):278-288

    Oberle C., Huai J., Reinheckel T., Tacke M., Rassner M., Ekert P.G., Buellesbach J., Borner C.  (2010) “Lysosomal membrane permeabilization and cathepsin release is a Bax/Bak-dependent, amplifying event of apoptosis in fibroblasts and monocytes.“ Cell Death Differ 17(7):1167-1178

    Buellesbach J. (2008) “Hypothetical new class of coding RNAs in insect genomes.” BMMS 1(4):245-248

    Koenig S., Mehlich A.-M., Buellesbach J., Michiels N. (2006) “Allohormones in Lumbricus terrestris? Mass spectrometry of the setal gland product indicates role of ubiquitin.” Invertebr. Reprod. Dev. 49(1-2):103-111

  • Areas of Expertise

    Evolutionary biology, chemical ecology, functional genetics, comparative genomics, analytical chemistry, behavioral biology, entomology, cuticular hydrocarbons, pheromones, chemical communication, evolutionary theory, speciation