Our research focuses on the ecological, genetic and developmental basis of adaptive behaviours that contribute to the evolution of new species. We are interested in how behavioural isolation evolves, and how genetic architecture and other factors may influence this process. Our work is currently focused on Heliconius butterflies, which show a striking radiation of warning patterns across the Neotropics often associated with Müllerian mimicry. These warning colour patterns are also used as mate recognition cues and are associated with diverging preference behaviours contributing to varying degrees of assortative mating.
Supported by the DFG Emmy Noether program, our research will continue to investigate the genetic basis of divergent preference behaviours in the sympatric species H. cydno and H. melpomene, as well as broaden out across the Heliconius radiation. The ultimate aim is to dissect the molecular basis of preference behaviours in this group to better understand how these phenotypes evolved and how this has influenced the evolution of new species. Our work will combine long term field and insectary based projects in the tropics with modern genomic and genetic techniques.