Dietrich Gotzek

Research Interests

I am broadly interested in the genetics and evolution of behavior. Specifically, I am studying the genetic basis, molecular mechanisms, and evolutionary history underlying social behavior in the Red Imported Fire Ant, Solenopsis invicta. This species displays a prominent social polymorphism, which affects almost every aspect of a colony's life history and is marked by variation at a single protein-coding gene, Gp-9. Some colonies only contain a single reproductive female (monogyny), whereas others contain many, up to hundreds, reproductive females (polygyny). Although the association between social organization (i.e., queen number) and variation at Gp-9 has been extensively studied, critical information is still lacking to functionally connect genotype and phenotype.

Hence, I would like to understand how Gp-9 is associated with multiple queen societies from a functional and mechanistic perspective. Is Gp-9 merely associated with this colony phenotype? If so, is there a functional reason for its association with polygyny by controlling some other aspect of the polygyny syndrome? Or does Gp-9 directly control social organization in fire ants, either as the master control gene or as part of a complex of genes that determine queen number? My aim is to begin to answer these questions by understanding the functional role of GP-9 in individual ants and the colony as a whole.


Curriculum Vitae

2007- Postdoc, DEE, University of Lausanne, Lausanne, Switzerland. Advisor: Laurent Keller 2001-2006 Ph.D. Genetics, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA. Advisor: Ken Ross 1999-2000 M.S. Biology, Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC, USA. Advisor: James Costa 1997-1999 Diplom-Biologe, Universität Bayreuth, Bayreuth, Germany. Advisor: Konrad Fiedler 1994-1996 Vordiplom, Johannes Gutenberg Universität, Mainz, Germany.


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Department of Entomology
National Museum of Natural History
Smithsonian Institution
PO Box 37012, MRC 188, NHB, Rm. CE-509
Washington, DC 20013-7012

phone: (202) 633-1003
email: gotzekd[@]