Dr. Joanito Liberti

I am an evolutionary molecular ecologist interested in understanding how social interactions with both beneficial and conflict-generating aspects are shaped by natural selection. During my pre-doctoral studies at the Centre for Social Evolution in Copenhagen I investigated the interaction-specificity and acquisition-mode of bacterial symbionts associated with fungus-growing ants and their (ant) social parasites, while in my Ph.D. I focused on the dynamics of sperm competition in attine ants and the neurobiological consequences of sexual conflict in honey bee queens. 


I joined the lab of Prof. Keller as a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Postdoctoral Fellow to investigate the gut microbiota – brain axis in the honey bee.  Recent research in vertebrate models suggests that gut microbes have significant influence on neurological processes, and that disturbance of their natural diversity and abundance may partly explain behavioural dysfunctions such as autism and depression. Advanced social insects rival humans in social complexity and among them honey bees represent an excellent model to map the neurological and behavioural extended phenotypes of gut symbionts because of the experimental amenability of their simple microbial gut flora. This project is conducted in collaboration with Prof. Philipp Engel at the Department of Fundamental Microbiology. 

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