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Chemical ecology

Natural substances produced by organisms from their secondary metabolism play a major role in interactions (intra- or interspecific) between living organisms sharing the same environment. We focus on pheromones involved in conspecific recognition among insects but also on the role of chemicals in insect-plants interactions (chemical defence in phytophageous insects, chemical mimicry in deceit pollination). Taxa studied are ants, termites, chrysomelids, ladybirds and the orchid-pollinator complex.

  1. de Biseau group (ants, chrysomelids)

  2. Pasteels group (chrysomelids)

Biodiversity and Conservation

Problems of biodiversity conservation are studied in local area and in tropical forest ecosystems. At a local scale (Brussels and suburbs), we are interested in distribution and behaviour of endangered species, which require to study potential competitors in expansion (invasive species). Bats, birds and ladybirds belong to the focus groups. In tropical forest, focus groups are termites and ants but also trees, on which we evaluate biodiversity and its variations depending on natural environment conditions and human activities impact.

  1. de Biseau group (ants, ladybirds)

  2. Flot group (tropical corals, amphipods)

  3. Fournier group (ants, termites)

  4. Hardy group (tropical plants, modelling)

  5. Roisin group (termites)

Population genetics and Phylogeography

Genetic markers are powerful tools to characterise the organisation of genetic diversity and identify the processes involved (genetic drift, dispersal, mutation, selection). We evaluate available statistical tools and develop our own to study these processes within natural populations. We use these tools with plant models, mainly tropical ones, to quantify seed and pollen dispersal. We use them to study dispersal in a variety of insect species, in particular different species of leaf beetle. We also study genetic structure of societies and populations of ants and termites, and their social consequences in terms of reproductive strategies (dispersal, sex ratio, local competition...).

Phylogeographic studies are conducted, at the interface between populations and species, in order to gain insights into the impact of Pleistocene climate history on the geographic distribution of genetic variation, and more generally on the mechanisms of speciation. Phylogeographic studies are conducted in Europe, Asia, and North America on several leaf beetles species, and in central Africa on rain forest tree species.

  1. Aron group (ants)

  2. Flot group (tropical corals, amphipods, bdelloid rotifers)

  3. Fournier group (ants, termites)

  4. Hardy group (tropical plants, modelling)

  5. Mardulyn group (leaf beetles, modelling)

Evolution and Social organisation

Rise of cooperation and sociality in animal reign is a major transition of evolution. Our goal is to understand principles that lead evolution of animal societies. We are also interested in the ecological consequences of social life: organisation of societies, reproductive strategies and conflicts within groups. Theses researches are mainly focus on social insects (ants, termites) and bats, using several approaches, as animal behaviour, ecology and genetic.

  1. Aron group (ants)

  2. de Biseau group (ants)

  3. Fournier group (ants, termites)

  4. Roisin group (termites)

Systematics and Phylogeny

Studies of alpha taxonomy (identification and description of genus and species) are made in part for their own interest (inventory of living organisms), but also as a basis for studies on biodiversity estimation. Building of phylogenies, thanks to genetic tools, allows to elaborate evolution outlines for other features: social organisation, behaviour, reproduction strategies, communication and chemical defence, geographical distribution…

  1. Flot group (tropical corals, amphipods)

  2. Hardy group (tropical plants)

  3. Roisin group (termites)

Genome Evolution

The influence of the ecology of organisms on the evolution of their genome is investigated via different approaches, notably comparative genomics and experimental evolution. One important aim is to find out genomic signatures of various ecological pressures, which may be used later on to infer the ecology of novel organisms based solely on complete or partial genome sequences.

  1. Flot group (tropical corals, amphipods, bdelloid rotifers, ants)

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