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Evolutionary Biology and Ecology

Research activities within the Evolutionary Biology and Ecology Unit at the ULB focus on 5 complementary thematics in evolutionary biology.(1) Natural substances produced by organisms from their secondary metabolism play a major role in interactions (intra- or interspecific) between living organisms sharing the same environment. We focus on pheromones involved in conspecific recognition among insects but also on the role of chemicals in insect-plants interactions (chemical defense, chemical mimicry).(2) Problems of biodiversity conservation are studied in local area and in tropical forest ecosystems. At a local scale (Brussels and suburbs), we are interested in distribution and behaviour of endangered species, which require to study potential competitors in expansion (invasive species). Bats, birds and ladybirds belong to the focus groups. In tropical forest, focus groups are termites and ants but also trees, on wich we evaluate biodiversity and its variations depending on natural environment conditions and human activities impact.(3) We evaluate available statistical tools and develop our own to characterize the organization of genetic diversity and identify the processes involved (genetic drift, dispersal, mutation, selection). We use these tools with both plant and animal models. We also study genetic structure of societies and populations of social insects (ants, termites), and their social consequences in terms of reproductive strategies. Phylogeographic studies are conducted, at the interface between populations and species, to gain insights into the geographic distribution of genetic variation and on the mechanisms of speciation. (4) We try to understand the principles that lead evolution of animal societies and the ecological consequences of social life: organisation of societies, reproductive strategies and conflicts within groups. These researches focus on social insects (ants, termites), using several approaches as behaviour, ecology and genetics.(5) Studies of alpha taxonomy (identification and description of genus and species) are made in part for their own interest (inventory of living organisms), but also as a basis for studies on biodiversity estimation. Building of phylogenies, thanks to genetic tools, allows to elaborate evolution outlines for other features: social organisation, behaviour, reproduction 


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