Research Overview

What are the causes and consequences of behavioral evolution in changing environments?

My colleagues and I use natural history observations combined with experimental field and laboratory studies to better understand the evolution of animal behavior in changing environments. We focus primarily on weakly social sweat bees (Halictidae) and fungus-growing ants (Attini) to understand how environmental, developmental, and genetic factors shape the expression or loss of social behavior, and drive the evolution of more (or less) complex societies. Much of this work involves nocturnal bees, which we use to understand how and why animals invade a new, extreme, ecological niche, and what are the behavioral and neurobiological consequences of doing so?

How and why do brains of insects and other invertebrates evolve to larger or smaller sizes, relative to body size, and what is the significance of these scaling patterns on brain size?


1991 Ph.D. (Entomology) with Honors, University of Kansas

1982 B.S. (Biology), University of Michigan

Selected Publications

Fernández-Marín H, Bruner G, Gomez EB, Nash DR, Boomsma JJ & Wcislo WT. 2013. Dynamic disease management in Trachymyrmex fungus-growing ants (Attini: Formicidae). American Naturalist.

Kapheim KM, Smith AR, Ihle KE, Amdam GV, Nonacs P, and Wcislo WT. 2012. Physiological variation as a mechanism for developmental caste-biasing in a facultatively eusocial sweat bee. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 279: 1437-1446.

Eberhard WG & Wcislo WT. 2011. Grade changes in brain-body allometry: morphological and behavioral correlates of brain size in miniature spiders, insects and other invertebrates. Advances in Insect Physiology 40: 155-213.

Biani N, Mueller U & Wcislo WT. 2009. A cleaning mutualism in bees and their mites. American Naturalist. 173: 841-847 & 2 pp supplement.

Wcislo WT & Tierney S. 2009. Behavioral environments and niche construction: the evolution of dim-light foraging in bees. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 84: 19-37.

Back to Top