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{Daniel Kronauer}

​Some of the questions we are working on include: 

  • How does the composition of a social group affect the structure of its social network, and the patterns of disease transmission within that group?

  • How is immune function distributed across members of a social group, and how does it affect disease spread?

  • How does infection or immune status affect individual and collective behavior within and across generations?

  • How do larvae control the behaviour and reproduction of adults?

  • What are the chemical and sensory bases of social immunity? 


Our study system, the clonal raider ant Ooceraea biroi, combines the rich social biology of ants with a high degree of experimental amenability. This species displays an unusually simple social organization: colonies have no queens, but instead consist of workers that reproduce clonally and synchronously. Synchronized brood development drives stereotypical behavioral cycles of about one month, in which colonies alternate between reproductive and foraging phases. Synchronized reproduction also means that all adults emerge in discrete cohorts. This unique biology provides experimental control over several factors (e.g., age, genotype) that affect behavior and disease, both at the individual and group levels. 


{Daniel Kronauer}


{Yuko Ulrich}

We develop and use tools that allow to perform large-scale behavioral experiments (100+ colonies) and analyse the behavior of individual ants in each colony. 

In parallel, we develop and use protocols to infect ants with various parasites and pathogens (fungi, bacteria, nematodes) and monitor their transmission to other colony members over time.

Finally, through collaborations with neuroscientists (Silke Sachse, Veit Grabe) and chemical ecologists (Tobias Köllner, Markus Knaden, Rayko Halitschke) at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, we investigate the sensory and chemical bases of social behavior and social immunity, using classic molecular and chemical tools, and more recently, targeted mutagenesis and neuronal imaging, to identify putative pheromones and elucidate their role in ant biology.

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