I am interested in taxonomy and evolutionary ecology of red wood ants. I am working in collaboration with the Museum of Zoology Lausanne and other universities (see below).
Taxonomy: Formica paralugubris a sympatric sibling species of Formica lugubris
Formica ants of the Formica rufa group (so-called red wood ant) have been protected in Switzerland since 1966. Within this group, we can identify two species complexes:
- the F. rufa - F. polyctena - F. pratensis complex (altitude < 800 m)
- the F. lugubris - F. aquilonia complex (altitude > 800 m; F. aquilonia is limited, in Switzerland, to the canton of Grisons)
Within this latter complex, studies of D. Cherix and collaborators on a supposed F. lugubris super-colony and peripheral populations lead to the morphological description of a new species: F. paralugubris (Seifert, 1996). Unfortunately, the morphological identification method is time consuming and necessitates a high level of experience. Moreover, it cannot be applied to male identification. We therefore decided to develop a new taxonomical approach based on cuticular hydrocarbon analysis with the collaboration of A.G. Bagnères of the CNRS of Marseille (France) using gas chromatography and gas chromatography-mass spectrometry.
Reproductive strategies of Formica lugubris
This multidisciplinary research is based on:
- behavior (work in the field: Parc Jurassien Vaudois, Swiss National Park): dispersal strategies, mating behavior, queen intraspecific parasitism and queen temporary social parasitism
- physiology (fat content): dispersal and foundation abilities of gynes
- population genetics (mtDNA, microsatellites): description of populations social structures (level of polygyny, genetic structure, dispersal strategies) - Diploma thesis of C. Bernasconi in collaboration with P. Pamilo of the University of Oulu, Finland.
- chemical ecology (cuticular hydrocarbons): study on queen foundation by temporary social parasitism. Influence of reproductive strategies and social structure on queens cuticular profiles - diploma thesis of G. Castella with the collaboration of A.G. Bagnères of the University of Tours, France
Geographical Information System (GIS): elaboration of habitat predictive models of the two sibling sympatric species in collaboration with A. Freitag of the Museum of Zoology Lausanne. Models could be helpful in the protection and management of these near threatened endangered European ant species.
This work will also provide data on coexistence of wood ant species.
Other research interests
Mammalogy: Co-direction of a survey on Chiroptera of the Jura Vaudois (Chiros)
Ornithology: Collaborator for the monitoring of widespread breeding birds MONiR (Vogelwarte Sempach)