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Parasitic influences on an animal society


Parasites are direct agents of natural selection, having significant effects on the reproductive success, life-history traits and phenotype of their hosts. Social insect colonies, by living in high density group of close relative individuals, offer favourable conditions for the spread of parasites. In response to infection, both infected and uninfected individuals exhibit behavioural changes that seem to reduce the risk of infection and the transmission of parasites. In order to shed new light on the interaction between social insect and their parasites we propose to study the consequences of ants' infection by two directly transmitted parasites a fungi and a bacteria. Trough comprehensive experimentation we will elucidate how infection affects host individuals and the whole colony at the chemical, behavioural and immune level. For the first time, we will explore the mechanisms responsible for the detection of infected individuals and the potential proximate causal link between the infection and the behavioural modifications. In addition, we will investigate whether changes in behaviour benefit the host as suggested by numerous studies or can be parasite adaptation aiming at increasing transmission. The proposed project will be the first to investigate whether ants immune response can be observed after exposition to chemicals extracted from infected individual. This multidisciplinary approach will significantly stimulate innovative and creative research in, for instance, providing insight into how group living may improve the survivorship of colony members despite the increased risks of parasite transmission that can accompany sociality

Call for proposal

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Norregade 10
1165 Kobenhavn

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Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Administrative Contact
Ivan Kristoffersen (Mr.)
EU contribution
€ 204 384,54