Department of Entomology

Spodoptera frugiperda, © MPI CE / A. T. Groot

The overall goal of the Department of Entomology is to study evolutionary adaptations in insects which are mediated by chemical signals. The concept of coevolution forms the theoretical framework, in which insect-plant, insect-microbe, and insect-insect interactions are examined. Strategies of plants to avoid being chosen for food and to interfere with the process of herbivory are countered by detoxification mechanisms by the insects. Adaptations by microbial pathogens to use insects as a food source are met by a complex insect innate immune response. And chemical signals by which insects communicate with each other are influenced by interspecific and intraspecific selection pressures. Since all evolutionary change has a genetic basis, knowledge of how genes control these phenotypes is fundamental to an understanding of the mechanism of coevolution and the nature of the coevolutionary equilibrium attained at the present time.

Prof. David G. Heckel

Prof. David G. Heckel
Phone: +49 (0) 3641 57 1500

Katrin Salzmann-Böhmer

Department Assistant: Katrin Salzmann-Böhmer
Phone: +49 (0) 3641 57 1501

Project Groups in the Department of Entomology

Plutella xylostella, © MPI CE / H. Vogel

Dr. Heiko Vogel

Focusing primarily on Lepidoptera, we are working to discover how natural selection and other evolutionary forces have shaped the kind of solutions insects have found to the chemical problems posed by their plant hosts and other biotic factors, such as pathogens. more »

Digestion, © MPI CE / Y. Pauchet

Dr. Yannick Pauchet

Unraveling how the insect’s digestive system adapts to its host plant, by analyzing the complex relationship between detoxificative/digestive enzyme gene families and host plant defenses. more »

Spodoptera frugiperda mating, © MPI CE / S.Hänniger

Sexual communication and speciation

Dr. Astrid T. Groot

Sexual attraction is the first step that determines who mates with whom. The evolution of sexual communication thus plays a pivotal role in the process of speciation. However, very little is known about the causes of initial divergence between populations in finding mating partners. more »