Dr. Erik Frank

I am interested in animal behaviour, ecology and evolution, specifically predator-prey interactions, social immunity and chemical communication in the tropics.

My main study organism is the termite-hunting ant species Megaponera analis (located in sub-Saharan Africa). The evolutionary arms race between its termite prey and M. analis has led to some ingenious mechanisms to increase their efficiency as predators and lower their mortality. This species is the only social insect to consistently rescue and treat their injured nestmates (as far as we know).

Questions I am interested to answer therefore are on the evolution of rescue behaviour in animals: which are the driving factors that benefit its evolution? Is it also present in other ant species? Furthermore I am taking a closer look at the social treatment within the nest: do nestmates apply antimicrobial substances on the wound? What is the exact benefit of the treatment and how unique is it?

Other topics I work on are on group versus individual decision making in group-recruiting ants, the scouting behaviour of M. analis and Cuticular Hydrocarbon profile changes to differing tasks and abiotic stresses in ants.

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