Phenotypic plasticity of fat synthesis

Our research focuses primarily on the study of lipid metabolism in parasitic insects. These insects were initially thought to have lost (and regained) the ability for fat synthesis during the course of evolution. Our latest findings revealed that fat synthesis was not lost or regained in the parasitic wasp Leptopilina heterotoma, a Drosophila parasitoid, but that this species evolved extreme plasticity of fat synthesis (Visser et al 2021 Sci Rep). When wasps develop in a fat-poor environment, fat synthesis will be switched on during adult life, but when development takes place in a fat-rich environment fat synthesis will be completely shut off. It is exceptional that fat synthesis can be completely shut off, because these wasps are still feeding on a superfluous supply of sugars. With the team, we study the effect of temperature, maternal behavior, endosymbionts, and ecological conditions on plastic fat synthesis, as well as its molecular underpinnings.

Current active collaborations: Prof Caroline Nieberding (UCLouvain, BE); Dr Cécile Le Lann (Rennes Univ, FR)  

Leptopilina heterotoma. Photo: Hans Smid

Evolution of olfactory communication and dispersal

Our lab has a close collaboration with the team of Prof. Caroline Nieberding. Visit the lab website for more information about shared research interests.

The work in our lab is funded by:

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