Group 2 SOcial Evolution and Responses to the Environment


Research topics

In Team ESORE, we aim at better understanding the functioning and evolution of interactions between insects and their social and abiotic environments, as well as the behavioural and physiological responses of insects to environmental stresses.

The evolution of social interactions. Insects exhibit a broad diversity of social interactions during their lifetime. On one hand, most insects are strictly solitary and only briefly interact with others for mating or to aggressively ensure their access to specific resources. On the other hand, many insects express frequent and tight social interactions with conspecifics during a period of time ranging from a few weeks (such as during family life) to an entire life (such as in eusocial colonies of termites and ants). In Team ESORE, we strive to shed light on the costs and benefits associated with these different forms of social interactions and to study their impacts on the evolution of social life. In particular, our research aims at better understanding 1) the behavioural, physiological and molecular mechanisms shaping competitive and cooperative interactions occurring both within and between species, 2) the chemical basis of communication within insect societies, 3) the roles of immunity and microbes in social interactions and in the evolution of group living and finally, 4) the mechanisms driving the maintenance of unique microbial symbioses in insect societies.

Response to environmental stresses. Over the last decades, human activities have led to major and often inexorable changes in the environment experienced by almost all living organisms. These changes are often thought to induce important stresses on these organisms and to ultimately alter ecosystem functioning and services. In Team ESORE, we aim at better understanding how these environmental stresses modify the physiology, reproduction, behaviours and fitness of insects and how these effects can transform the ecosystems. In particular, our works investigate 1) the effects of temperature, pesticides and endocrine disruptors on the reproductive physiology and behaviours of insects, 2) the effects of global warming and climate change on phenotypic and molecular adaptations, and 3) the importance of novel biotic and abiotic constraints in the functioning and control of invasive species.

The complementarity of skills presented by the researchers of team ESORE allows us to address the above questions using a unique combination of approaches derived from the fields of evolutionary ecology, physiology, chemistry and molecular biology.

The approaches mostly used by the researchers of team ESORE are :

  • Behavioural ecology
  • Chemical ecology
  • Physiology
  • Population genetics
  • Molecular phylogeny
  • Immunology

The biological models mostly used by the researchers of team ESORE encompasses solitary, subsocial and eusocial species such as:

  • Several underground termites of the genus Reticulitermes (Rhinotermitidae)

  • The Asian hornet Vespa velutina nigrithorax

  • The European earwig Forficula auricularia

  • eupalmus Several parasitoid wasps such Nasonia vitripennis or Eupelmus vuilleti

  • Several ants, such as Lasius niger or ants from the genus Camponotus and Aphenogaster