Laboratory of Ecology and Evolution of Social Insects
Current research projects
The impacts of tropical forest degradation and fragmentation on ant-plant mutualisms
Project investigates how the mutualism between early succession Macaranga trees and their ant symbionts changes with logging and fragmentation of tropical forest, conversion to oil palm and experimental forest regeneration in Borneo. We will quantify network structure, and assess benefits for ants (food and living space) and trees (protection from herbivores). We will use field experiments to assess critical degrees of isolation from ant colonists for Macaranga and the potential for ant-assisted Macaranga to facilitate other trees.
Support: 2016-2018: 16-09427S. Czech Science Foundation (PI: T. Fayle)
Phylogeography and population biology of Melanesian ants
This project represents a comprehensive study of the ecology and evolution of tropical ants at the community, species and population levels. It is based on unique data set of samples collected from 17 sites in New Guinea and northern Australia. The study examines species distributional data combined with their population and species phylogenetic relationships across a large regional spatial scale. We used several different standartized collection methods (e.g. Wincler extractors, hand colecting, pitfall-traps, baits, searching of fallen trees) resulting to a broad focus on cryptic, terrestrial and arboreal ant species.
Funding: 2012-2015 Ecological and evolutionary determinants of ant distributions in tropical ecosystems. Czech Science Foundation (PI: M. Janda)
Impact of degradation of forests on ant/termite communities and their inter-species interactions
In this project we will assess the way that interactions between soil dwelling ants and termites change when tropical rainforest is logged, fragmented and converted into oil palm plantation. Interactions will be quantified using environmentally constrained null models of species cooccurrence, molecular identification of gut contents, and observations and experiments linking the soil biota to soil properties and nutrient redistribution rates. Using these data we will create whole-network models which will allow prediction of the stability of ecosystem diversity
and functioning under a range of species extinction scenarios.
Funding: 2014-2016: How do changes in species interaction networks affect ecosystem function when tropical forests are degraded? Czech Science Foundation (PI: T. Fayle)
Luke, S.H.; Fayle, T. M.; Eggleton, P.; Turner, E.C.; Davies, R.G. (2014) Biodiversity and Conservation 23 (11): 2817-2832.
Fayle T.M. et.al. (2015) PLoS ONE 10: e0122533.
Ecology of arboreal ants in the canopy of tropical lowland forests
The canopies of tropical forest trees still belongs to the least known natural habitats in the world. However, arboreal insect species are rarely studied due to the limited access to the canopy and methods as canopy fogging. Its known that ants represent the majority of arthropod biomass in tropical forest canopies.
We use three different methodological approachs a) single rope technique b) searching for the ant nests and foragers in fallen trees and c) construction of a special canopy ant bait stations to manipulate their activity in trees. Aim of the project is to get a good picture about the arboreal ant diversity and activity and to study their role in ant-herbivore-plant food-webs in tropical forests.
For more see:
Janda M., Konecna M. (2010) Journal of Tropical Ecology 27: 83-91.
Klimeš P., Janda M., Ibalim S., Kua J. and Novotný V. (2011) Ecological Entomology 36: 94–103
Klimeš P., Idigel C., Rimandai M., Fayle T.M., Janda M., Weiblen G.D. and Novotny V. (2012) Journal of Animal Ecology 81: 1103-1112.
Funding: 2012-2014: Mechanisms structuring ant communities in the canopy of a tropical rainforest. Czech Science Foundation (PI: P.Klimes)
New Guinea ant
The website dedicated to providing information about the systematics and ecology of the New Guinean ant fauna is available on www.newguineants.org. Our long-term aim is to facilitate access to photographs of specimens, their nests and habitats and provide resources for better knowledge of Melanesian ants with main focus on New Guinea island.
Taxonomy of new species of social insects
We also collaborate and share our material with international museums and taxonomists for identifications and possible descriptions of news species of social insects, notably ants and their nest symbionts.
Examples of collaborative institutions are: Museum of Comparative Zoology Harvard, Australian National Collections, National Agriculture Reasearch Institute of Papua New Guinea, Natural History Museum London.
Just from forests of New Guinea we have described 5 new species of ants and one new genus of symbiotic beetle.
Klimeš P, McArthur A (2014) Diversity and ecology of arboricolous ant communities of Camponotus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in a New Guinea rainforest with descriptions of four new species. Myrmecological News 20: 141-158.
Hlaváč P., Janda M., (2009) New genus of Lomechusini (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae, Aleocharinae) from Papua New Guinea associated with Leptogenys Roger. Zootaxa 2062: 57-64.