LOEWE Center for
Insect Biotechnology
& Bioresources

Biodiversity research

Prof. Dr. Andreas Vilcinskas

EXOTIC - EXperimentally Orientated genomics to Tackle Insects adaptive Challenges during bio invasions: the ladybird Harmonia axyridis as a model species.

BiodivERsA-project: A network of national funding organizations promoting pan-European research that generates new knowledge for the conservation and sustainable management of biodiversity.

Participating countries : FR, BE, DE (Prof. Dr. Andreas Vilcinskas and Dr. Heiko Vogel)

The harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis has emerged as a attractive model species for invasion biology, reflecting its remarkable capacity to outcompete native ladybird species when introduced into new habitats. EXOTIC was designed by researchers from three EU-countries (Belgium, France and Germany) to decipher the adaptive pathways underlying the global invasive success of H. axyridis and to assess the negative impacts on native ladybird species. It combines development of genomic / transcriptomic resources and associated statistical methods with simulation-based investigations to determine genomic signatures of adaptations. In order to analyze the genetic basis of three traits that evolved during invasion we will perform laboratory selection experiments. In addition, we will subject the phenotypic differences in aggregation behavior, immunity and stress responses between different populations to quantitative genetic analysis. Complementarily, in natura genomic studies will be carried out to address rapid adaptive shifts associated with invasion.  Addressing a further major task of the biodiversa programme, demonstrating and characterizing the impacts of biological invaders, we will finally evaluate the potential threat of the recently discovered H. axyridis associated microsporidia for indigenous ladybird species. Particularly, we will investigate whether the microsporidia which are tolerated by invasive carrier can spread following intraguild predation and kill indigenous ladybirds ultimately resulting in their decline.