Department of Insect Symbiosis

Insects are the most diverse animal class on the planet, having successfully adapted to a multitude of environmental conditions and food sources. Their evolutionary success is at least partly founded in the ability to engage in mutualistic interactions with microorganisms that confer novel ecological traits to their hosts by providing nutritional supplementation, digestive or detoxifying capabilities, or defense against natural enemies.

The department’s main goal is to understand the evolutionary origins, ecological implications, and the chemical and molecular basis of insect interactions with mutualistic microbes, as well as with antagonists and food plants. Our philosophy is to approach these questions in a range of non-model organisms with interesting natural histories, aiming at an understanding of the chemical mediators of interspecific interactions and their functional implications from a cellular level to the fitness consequences for the interacting organisms under ecologically relevant conditions. To this end, we use a combination of ecological experiments, phylogenetic reconstructions, state-of-the art fluorescence microscopy, and molecular, chemical-analytical, and microbiological techniques.

Link to JGU Mainz

Director: Prof. Dr. Martin Kaltenpoth
Phone: +49 (0) 3641 57 1500

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

Project Groups in the Department of Insect Symbiosis

Host Plant Adaptation
Dr. Heiko Vogel

Molecular Biology of the Insect Digestive System
Dr. Yannick Pauchet

Chemistry of Insect Microbe Interactions
Dr. Tobias Engl

Sequestration and Detoxification in Insects
Dr. Franziska Beran