2015-present: PhD position on adaptive value of plasticity under sexual selection in changing environments in the butterfly: Bicyclus anynana (FRIA grant-FRS-FNRS)
2013: Master "Conservation et Restauration de la Biodiversité" (Université de Lorraine, Metz)
2011: Bachelor "Ecologie-Aménagement" (Université de Lorraine, Metz)
Abstract of the project:
Phenotypic plasticity may help species to respond to changes in the distribution and density of individuals, as well as community composition, induced by current climate change. Seasonal polyphenism in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana, which depends on developmental temperatures, produces alternating wet and dry seasonal forms that are adaptive to the typical alternation in African seasons: the wet season is characterized by a luxurious vegetation, whereas during the stressful dry season food is scarce. At seasonal transitions, however, one can commonly observe intermediate phenotypes whose adaptive value is unknown. Moreover, it was recently shown that mate choice in B. anynana is modified by learning previous sexual and social experiences, which can affect the evolution of signals and preferences under sexual selection. The production of intermediate forms may increase in response to increasing temperature and thus guide mate choice towards a potentially maladaptive phenotype, ultimately affect the long-term survival of populations. To test this hypothesis, our first aim is to generate intermediate phenotypes in the lab and evaluate how they differ in visual and chemical secondary sexual traits from extreme wet and dry seasonal forms. Second, we focus on the influence of global warming on the relative production of seasonal forms. Third, we test if B. anynana females have a pre-existing mating preference for a specific male seasonal form and if this pre-existing mating preference can be modified by exposure to males from a specific seasonal form during sexual maturation (learning). This project will allow to assess if global warming can lead to an unsuitable mate choice caused by changes in the social environment of B. anynana that may modify females mating preferences by learning, increasing their mating probability with a potentially maladaptive phenotype to the coming season.