I am interested in the evolution of sociality, in immunological ecology and in host-parasite interactions. In my PhD project, I use Formica ants as model species. I study behavioural and immunological anti-parasites mechanisms, the potential trade-offs between these systems of defences and the effect of social structure on pathogen susceptibility.
The wood ant F paralugubris employs an unusual mechanism of defence against parasites: collective medication with conifer resin (Christe et al., 2003). The aim of my project is to gain further insights into this behavioural defence and its potential trade-off with other defence mechanisms. More precisely, I am investigating if this behaviour is prophylactic or curative in response to an infection, and if there are trade-offs between the use of resin and the activation of the individual immune system. I will also test if the level of genetic diversity affects pathogens transmission and colony susceptibility in colonies of the ant . selysi This should reveal if variation in social structure (i.e. monogynous vs polygynous) affects host-parasite interactions.