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28. Graduate Meeting DZG Evolutionary Biology

12th till the 14th of April 2024 - University of Bayreuth

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 Meet the organizers:


Taina Conrad

Dr Taina Conrad

Communication in animals can be quite complex and is used in various contexts such as foraging, mate choice, or raising offspring. For us humans, it can be difficult to understand those communication channels so very different from our own. That is probably the reason why, until recently, most research has focused on those communication channels we also use. However, a lot of times animals are able to exploit ways of communication entirely different from what we are used to. Vibrational communication is one of these types of communication which fascinates me deeply since so much is still unknown. I am also interested in chemical communication via allomones or kairomones, which subconsciously even affects us as humans. My current research focuses on the one hand on acoustic/vibrational communication in burying beetles during brood care and its role in the evolution of family and on the other hand the vibration communication during the mating behavior of mason bees.

GeoSciEd V

Dr Max Körner

I am a researcher of social evolution and primarily interested in the role of social and individual immunity. Living socially is associated with intrinsically higher costs of pathogen and parasite defense due to higher density and frequent social contacts. As a result, we expect group-living species to develop effective strategies to lower these costs. These strategies may be reflected in changes to molecular or behavioral phenotypes, including communal efforts that benefit not just the actors but surrounding individuals as well. These collective mechanisms, known as social immunity, are well known to play a key role in maintaining complex social systems such as eusocial colonies or human society, but their role in the early evolution of emergent social behaviors and simple social groups is poorly understood. My work aims to shed light on the role of individual and social immunity in the net benefits conveyed to parents and offspring of relatively simple family groups. Specifically, I focus on burying beetle families in the genus Nicrophorus by investigating their life-history, behavior, immunity, and gene expression. These beetles feed and breed on carrion which represents a plethora of challenges including dealing with a hazardous microbiome and rapid decay. They successfully created a niche on this ephemeral resource by exhibiting complex parental care as well as some degrees of offspring cooperation, but naturally also compete over the limited resources, representing an ideal system to learn more about the role of communal immune defenses in early social evolution.

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