Adaptation & Specialisation

A central question of the group concerns how olfactory systems adapt to the habitat and needs of the animal. We are especially interested in how extreme specialization affects the sense of smell, from the behavioral to the molecular. We are mainly using drosophilid flies as models, but we are also studying other arthropods, including e.g. the giant robber crab (Birgus latro). Species that we are currently examining include the melanogaster siblings D. sechellia and D. erecta, specialized on Noni and Pandanus syncarps respectively; the cactophilic flies of the mojavensis cluster; the land crab dwelling drosophilids of the West Indies and Christmas Island as well as a vampire guano breeding cave-dwelling drosophilid from South America.

In addition we also explore a number of different olfactory deceptive pollination systems. The reproductive success of deceptive plants relies on their capacity to mimic irresistible resources of their targeted insects. Accordingly, these plants can provide important insights into 1) what constitute optimal resources for the visiting insects, as well as 2) the volatile signal defining these resources. We are particularly interested in plants deceiving drosophild flies, and are at the moment studying several different systems targeted at a variety of drosophild species.

Project Leader

  Prof. Dr. Bill S. Hansson
Phone: +49 (0)3641 57 1400


  Ian Keesey
Phone: +49 (0)3641 57 1410

Technical Assistants

  Dr. Anna Sp├Ąthe
Phone: +49 (0)3641 57 1461
  Regina Stieber
Phone: +49 (0)3641 57 1461
  Kerstin Weniger
Phone: +49 (0)3641 57 1463


Christoph Griehl
Richard Zimmermann