Ants participate in a wide range of interspecific interactions and are often considered keystone species in tropical ecosystems. In our group, we are interested in interactions between ants and myrmecophytic plants as well as associations between ants and their microbiome.
We study associations between myrmecophytic plants in Melanesia, in particular genera Hydnophytum and Myrmecodia (Rubiaceae). Thesants create a unique ecosystem for various ants who participate in their protection, nutrition and dispersal. The plants create important nesting habitats for ants in higher altitudes or in coastal mangroves and allow some arboreal ants to dominate large parts of forest canopy.
In social insects, microbiome communities impact diet, social interactions and possibly the evolution of ecological preferences. We are interested in the associations between ants and their microbiome across ecological gradients at the population and species levels. The patterns of spatial and population-level host specificity in ant-associated microbiome are mostly unknown. Therefore, we use ants to evaluate to what extent associations between symbiotic microorganisms and their host are determined by spatial turnover, diet, climate and other ecological factors.