Symbioses with microorganisms have dramatically influenced the biology and evolution of eukaryotes. Symbionts contributed to the emergence and were the key to the evolutionary success of major host clades and shaped their interactions with other organisms and the environment. In the rapidly changing world that we live in, there is little doubt that symbiotic microbes will continue having major, and perhaps increasing, effects on host populations and communities, and on their abilities to overcome the environmental challenges.
The goal of our research group is to understand the broad patterns of the microbial diversity across insects, the most diverse and ecologically important class of animals, and the dynamics of the insect microbiomes across space and time. The key questions that we are addressing include:
- How variable is the microbiome composition and abundance among individuals, populations, species, and larger insect clades?
- How do the insect microbiomes change across the seasons, years, and at geological timescales? How important are the geographic differences?
- What are the most important microorganisms that colonize diverse insects?
- To what extent do microbial strains transmit across unrelated insects?
- How do insect-associated microbes evolve?
- How do the microbial symbionts affect the biology of their insect hosts?
- How do the microbial symbionts shape insect communities?
Our work on these topics can be divided into three main lines of investigation:
- The evolution of specialized symbiotic microorganisms of sap-feeding insects from the hemipteran suborder Auchenorrhyncha
- The diversity and dynamics of insect microbiomes in time and space
- The diversity of insects, and factors that shape their communities
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