All organisms encounter variation in their environment, from changes in abiotic factors such as temperature to variation in biotic factors like predation pressure and social group dynamics. I want to understand how environment – and in particular social environment – influences individual development and modulates the evolution of complex traits.

I use ants as models because they exhibit extreme levels of developmental plasticity, which for instance allows female eggs to develop into either reproductive queens or sterile workers depending on maternal or socio-environmental cues. With over 12,000 described species, ants are one of the most diverse animal groups on earth and their societies offer the opportunity to study a major transition in evolution.

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