Permanent staff

Sabrina Amador

Principal investigator

Ecological and social interactions affect the behavioral responses of organisms. Ant societies in obligate mutualisms with plants are a fascinating pairing for studying coevolution. The plant and the needs it creates on the ant society shapes the behavior and morphology of society members

Amador-Vargas S., Wcislo W.T. 2021. Nestmate interference in acacia ants vary with colony size and task-specialization. Animal Behavior 181: 151–163. 

Gijsman, F., Gonzalez Y., Guevara M. & Amador-Vargas S. 2021. Short-term plasticity and variation in acacia ant-rewards under different conditions of ant occupancy and herbivory. The Science of Nature. 108(4):31doi: 10.1007/s00114-021-01738-w.

Farji-Brener A.G.& Amador-Vargas, S. 2020Plasticity in extended phenotypes: how the antlion Myrmeleon crudelis adjusts the pit traps depending on biotic and abiotic conditions. Israel Journal of Ecology and Evolution 66: 41–47.

Amador-Vargas, S., Dyer J., Arnold N., Cavanaugh L. & Sánchez E. 2019. Acacia trees with parasitic ants have fewer and less spacious spines than trees with mutualistic ants. Naturwissenschaften 107:3. 

Amador-Vargas, S. & Mueller, U.G. 2017. Ability to reorient is weakly correlated with central-place versus non-central-place foraging in acacia ants. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 71: 43.

Amador-Vargas, S., W. Gronenberg, W. Wcislo, U. G. Mueller. 2015. Specialization and group size: brain and behavioural correlates of colony size in ants lacking morphological castes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 282: 2014-2502.

Kardish, M.R., Mueller, U.G., Amador-Vargas, S., Dietrich, E.I., Ma, R., Barrett, B., Fang, C.-C., 2015. Blind trust in unblinded observation in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 3: 51.

Amador-Vargas, S., M. Dominguez, G. León, B. Maldonado, J. Murillo, and G. L. Vides. 2014. Leaf-folding response of a sensitive plant shows context-dependent behavioral plasticity. Plant Ecology 215: 1445–1454.

Amador-Vargas S. 2012c. Run, robber, run: parasitic acacia ants use speed and evasion to steal food from ant-defended trees. Physiological Entomology 37: 323-329.

Amador-Vargas S. 2012b. Behavioral responses of acacia ants correlate with age and location on the host plant. Insectes Sociaux. 59: 341- 350.

Amador-Vargas S. 2012a. Plant killing by acacia ants (Pseudomyrmex spinicola) increases the density of host species seedlings in the dry forest of Costa Rica. PsycheSpecial Issue: Advances in Neotropical Myrmecology 2012: 1-6.

Yorlenis Y. González

Research Technician

Yorlenis has a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology, with a specialty in Botany at the University of Panama. She has been working in the lab since 2019, where she assists in the organization, design, coordination and execution of research projects on the behavior of Neotropical arthropods. She conducts field and laboratory observations and watches over equipment, materials, and everything related to laboratory logistics. She is interested in biodiversity, ecological associations and in learning new ways of doing science every day, in a practical way and that others can easily understand.

Current fellows

Fernando Soley

Postdoctoral fellow

He is interested in the behavioral adaptations of arthropods and in how behavior affects evolution. He has explored these adaptations mainly through predator-prey interactions and foraging behavior. He has a general interest in insects and spiders, and his past research has focused on spider-eating assassin bugs. He is currently doing a comparative analysis of the behavior of assassin bugs in Costa Rica and Australia. Finally, he is also interested in the cognitive and sensory capacities of invertebrates and in how these relate to their ecological challenges.

Soley, F.G., 2021. Still no evidence for transgenerational inheritance or absence of epigenetic reprogramming in the honey bee. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(28). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2108608118

Soley, F.G., & Perfecto, I. 2021. A way forward for biodiversity conservation: high-quality landscapes. Trends in Ecology & Evolution. DOI:10.1016/j.tree.2021.04.012

Soley, F.G., Rodríguez, R. L., Höbel, G., & Eberhard, W. G. 2021. Insightful behaviour in arthropods?. Behaviour, 1(aop), 1-13.  DOI: 10.1163/1568539X-bja10077

Chacón, I. S., & Soley, F.G. 2020. Research for decision-making in marine protected areas such as Isla del Coco, Costa Rica. Revista de Biología Tropical, 68, 1-17. 

DOI: 10.15517/rbt.v68is1.41126 

Soley, F.G. 2019. A possible role of decorations in spiderwebs as protection devices that distract predators. Revista de Biología Tropical, 67(2), 164-173. DOI: 10.15517/rbt.v67i2supl.37227

Rosannette Quesada

Postdoctoral fellow

Rosannette did her undergrad and master studies at the University of Costa Rica, working with behavioral plasticity in orb weaver spiderlings. Then, she did her PhD on behavioral ecology at the Instituto de Biociências of the Universidade de São Paulo, researching sexual selection and parental care using Opiliones. She is now a short-term postdoctoral Fellowship with a deep interest in animal behavior and science communication.

She is currently working in our lab on a review paper that aims to investigate what proportion of ant studies have been about behavior of Neotropical ants in the past five years? She is also developing some outreach/educational material regarding the behavior of Neotropical ants and in the past years she has developed an outreach project regarding daddy-long legs. You can find more about that project at:

Quesada-Hidalgo, R., Eberhard, W. G., & Barrantes, G. 2021. Complex behavioral plasticity is not reduced in spiderlings with miniature brains. Plos one, 16 (6), e0251919.  DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0251919

Quesada-Hidalgo, R., Solano-Brenes, D., Requena, G. S., & Machado, G. 2019. The good fathers: efficiency of male care and the protective role of foster parents in a Neotropical arachnid. Animal Behaviour, 150, 147-155. DOI: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2019.02.007

Dumas Gálvez

Postdoctoral fellow

Dumas Gálvez is a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. He graduated from a Master in Ecology and Evolution from the University of Groningen (The Netherlands) in 2009. Later, he obtained a PhD focused in Ecology and Evolution in 2014 from the University of Lausanne in Switzerland, where he worked on pathogen – ant interactions. He is currently working on a project aimed at discovering the effects of forest perturbation on the immune competence of the neotropical ant Ectatomma ruidum. Other lines of interest carried out by he and the students under his supervision include conservation, predator – prey interactions, ecology and evolution of arachnids, covering aspects of foraging strategies, defense against predators and pathogens, competition, among others. Moreover, they  work with other arthropod groups, mostly aimed at experimental biology and hypothesis testing. He is also interested in the coloration of invertebrates in general, functionality and mechanism of color production. Besides, a current group member works on predator-prey interactions, using agoutis and ocelots as a system. Finally, his previous research experiences also covered subjects in ornithology, herpetology and animal-plant interactions.

Gálvez,D. 2021. Three-year monitoring of roadkill trend in a road adjacent to a national park in Panama Biotropica. DOI: 10.1111/btp.12995

Gálvez D, Nieto C & Samaniego, P. 2020. Test of the prey-attraction hypothesis for the scorpion fluorescence. Neotropical Biodiversity 6:1, 172-177. DOI: 10.1080/23766808.2020.1844991

Gálvez D, Añino Y, Vega C, Bonilla E. 2020. Immune priming against bacteria in spiders and scorpions? PeerJ 8:e9285. DOI: 10.7717/peerj.9285

​Vega-Hildago, A, Añino, Y., Krichilsky, E., Smith, A.R., Santos-Murgas, A & D. Gálvez. 2020. Decline of native bees (Apidae: Euglossa) in a tropical forest of Panama. Apidologie DOI: 10.1007/s13592-020-00781-2

Gálvez, D., Garrido, M., Gil, F. & Fernández-Marín, H. 2020. Benefits of living underground: the case of parasite release in the antlion (Myrmeleon timidus). Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 168: 280-285. DOI: 10.1111/eea.12895

​Bonadies, E., Wcislo, W.T., Gálvez, D., Hughes, W.H.O., Fernández-Marín, H. 2019. Hygiene Defense Behaviors Used by a Fungus-Growing Ant Depend on the Fungal Pathogen Stages. Insects 2019, 10(5), 130. DOI: 10.3390/insects10050130

Añino, Y., Parra-H, A and Gálvez, D. Sociobiology. 2019. Are Orchid Bees (Apidae: Euglossini) Good Indicators of the State of Conservation of Neotropical Forests? Sociobiology 66(1): 194-197. DOI: 10.13102/sociobiology.v66i1.3679 

​Gálvez, D. 2019. Predation of a Rock pigeon by a Yellow-headed caracara in a suburban area in Panama. Journal of Raptor Research. 1: 109-110. DOI:  10.3356/JRR-18-11

Current interns

  • Katherine Porras – Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica. Intern March – November 2021
  • Eleodoro Bonilla – Universidad de Panamá. Intern February 2019 – March 2022
  • Brenda Virola – Universidad de Panamá. Intern May 2021 – May 2022
  • Carlos Vega – Universidad de Panamá. Intern September 2021 – February 2022
  • Vivian Orribarra – Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí. STRI Intern February – April 2019 & August – October 2021

Former lab members

  • Jorge de la O Castro – Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica. Intern April 2021. 
  • Finote Gijsman – University of Northwestern, Evanston, Illinois. Intern September – November 2019. 
  • Maikol Guevara – Universidad de Panamá. Intern August – December 2019
  • Aaron de Veres – University of Edinburgh. Short-term fellow. June – August 2019
  • Paula Palacios – Universidad Del Valle (Colombia). Intern April – June 2019