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Project: Environmental disturbance and its effect on the immune competence of an insect: respirometry

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Project title

Environmental disturbance and its effect on the immune competence of an insect: respirometry.

Mentor name

Sabrina Amador / Dumas Gálvez /


Gamboa / Tupper

Project summary and objectives

This project will be carried out in collaboration with Ummat Somjee, postdoctoral fellow in Gamboa.

To study the effect of forest disturbance in the ability of an insect host to fight pathogens and how its response is influenced by metabolic rates, the intern will work on the respirometry of the ant Ectatomma ruidum from environments with varying levels of perturbation. We aim to evaluate whether metabolic rates influence the immune capacity of the ants, measured as phenoloxidase levels in the hemolymph or resistance to fungal pathogens.

Goals: 1) to test whether the metabolic rate of ants is influenced by forest disturbance. 2) to test whether the metabolic rate of ants influences the immune response of ants.

Mentorship goals

Mentor Goals and Intern benefits:

  • The inter will learn about respirometry, pathogen – insect host interactions, experimental design, data collection, use of laboratory and field equipment, statistical analysis in R, manuscript drafting, scientific oral presentation. The intern will participate in laboratory and field activities, following the STRI’s regulations to deal with the COVID crisis.

List of suggested readings

Adamo, S.A., 2004. Estimating disease resistance in insects: phenoloxidase and lysozymelike activity and disease resistance in the cricket Gryllus texensis. J. Insect Physiol. 50, 209– 216.

Fuller, C.A., Postava-Davignon, M.A., West, A., Rosengaus, R.B., 2011. Environmental conditions and their impact on immunocompetence and pathogen susceptibility of the Caribbean termite Nasutitermes acajutlae. Ecol. Entomol. 36, 459–470.

Levings, S.C., Franks, N.R., 1982. Patterns of nest dispersion in a tropical ground ant community. Ecology 63, 338–344.

Moyer, B.R., Drown, D.M., Clayton, D.H., 2002. Low humidity reduces ectoparasite pressure: implications for host life history evolution. Oikos 97, 223–338.

Shi JZ, Boulay R, Arnan X, Sanchez C, Xim O. 2019. Evidence for locally adaptive metabolic rates among ant populations along an elevational gradient. Journal of Animal Ecology 88:1240–1249

Contact information

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