Our research focuses mainly on the obligate mutualisms of acacia ants with the swollen-thorn acacias, and we aim to learn how the evolution of the association with the plant involves behavioral (individual or social) or morphological modifications. We are therefore also interested in learning about the organisms that can live with the defending acacia ants. Although we are fascinated by ants living on plants, we encourage people to pursue their own research question and we welcome studies in any kind of arthropods.
What is the role of ecological associations on behavioral and morphological trait evolution?
Obligatory associations between different organisms have consequences for the evolution of traits in the interacting species. We focus our research on the effects of obligatory plant parasitism or mutualisms on the behavior and morphology of acacia ants. Specifically, we study navigation, memory and learning in ants with different types of ecological associations. We are also interested in how the behaviors associated with the mutualistic or parasitic association may shape the morphology of ants.
How do individual decisions add up to achieve common goals in insect societies?
We study how insect societies work to achieve common goals without central control. Focusing on acacia ants, we addressed how workers that are similar in shape and morphology are able to cover the whole variety of tasks that must be performed in the colony. We assess how society shapes the behavior and brain of individual ants. We are interested in understanding how experiences can affect the specialization, performance and range of tasks that workers execute.
How do organism make decisions, and what is the role of memory and learning on decision-making?
We are broadly interested in how organisms modulate a response based on previous experiences, that is, how organism learn. Hence, we are researching plant decision making, aiming at understanding habituation-like responses in the sensitive plant Mimosa pudica. Also, we study memory, learning and orientation in ants.