I became a biologist for the excitement I find in devising experimental designs to answer questions about how animals function and interact. My curiosity is biased towards the behavioural mechanisms allowing naive animals to cope with survival and reproduction (instincts), and their ability to incorporate experience into the performance of these tasks (learning).
I have mainly been working on different nectarivorous and herbivorous insects and their interactions with plants. One of my interests is in understanding the environmental information that insects evaluate and respond to when engaged in goal-directed behaviours such as foraging and oviposition. This typically entails a sequence of movements, each elicited by its specific stimuli configuration. I focus on the description of these motor patterns and the elucidation of how multimodal stimulation controls their display.
Here in Lund I am a postdoc with Almut Kelber working in a comparative study of the sensory ecology of hawkmoths. Their body plan and behavioural repertoire are very similar, but at the same time, they have diverged extremely. They occupy very different habitats and can be diurnal, crepuscular, nocturnal or even arrhythmic. As adults some feed on nectar, some on rotting fruit, some don’t feed at all, and some rob honey from honeybee hives. How has this group diverged from a single ancestor? What were (are) the selective pressures and historical contingencies involved? We are not planning on definitively answering these questions, but are investigating how shared motor outputs are elicited by different stimuli and under different conditions. We are doing this in a variety of hawkmoths with very different lifestyles. Our hope is to better understand the interplay between sensory adaptations, control of motor outputs and the group’s evolutionary divergence.