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PhD student, FRIA Research Fellow

phone: +32 (0)2 650 22 67

e-mail: alexkuhn@ulb.ac.be

Research interests

PhD research project

Origin and evolution of conditional use of sex in Cataglyphis desert ants

Supervisor: Serge Aron

Our research project focuses on the origin and evolution of conditional use of sexual reproduction and parthenogenesis in desert ants of the genus Cataglyphis. Among these ants, several species have evolved alternative reproductive systems combining sexual and asexual reproduction for the production of female castes: sterile workers arise from fertilized eggs, while new queens are produced by parthenogenesis. This stratagem allows queens to double the number of genes copies they transmit, while maintaining genetic diversity in the worker force. In some species, this strategy is associated with a hybrid reproductive system. Two distinct genetic lineages coexist in each population. All the workers are hybrids of the two lineages, while male and female sexuals are exclusively produced by parthenogenesis. As a result, no gene flow occurs between the two lineages and only the pure-lineage genomes are perpetuated.


Darras H, Kuhn A, Aron S (2014) Genetic determination of female castes in a hybridogenetic desert ant. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27, 2265-2271.

Kuhn A, Darras H, Aron S (2018) Phenotypic plasticity in an ant with strong caste-genotype association. Biology Letters 14, 20170705.

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