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Ants are perfect models for Manuela Ramalho’s research interest in microbiome and host symbiosis. Ants have one of the widest global distribution and habitat diversity of any animal. She captures her enthusiasm and shares it with listeners as she discusses the ecological role of insects and her research on ants.

Listen and learn

  • What key questions and ant facts are tied to a better understanding of their microbiome,
  • How elements of an ant’s ecosystem such as an ant’s habitat and may or may not impact their microbiome, and
  • How microbiomes might differ across different ant species and roles within a colony.

Ant scientist Manuela Ramalho grew up in Brazil, an ecosystem flush with insects. Her academic life brought her in touch with all the possibilities of ant research and she’s turned that work into a specialization in their microbiome. Now a postdoc researcher at Cornell University, she opens up this research world to listeners, offering an understanding of what we may learn about the impact of the microbiome on the ants themselves as well as how ant ecology, behavior, development, diet, and phylogeny determines the microbes.

For example, after she and her colleagues studied the Neotropical species Daceton armigerum, they found that varying their diet had surprisingly no effect on their microbiome. She explains how little scientist understand about the roles of these microbes and how they are beginning to learn more. Some studies, for example, imply symbiotic roles such as microbes providing ants with nutritional benefits.

Furthermore, as with most animal species, questions of coevolution may explain the function of microbe–ant symbiotic relationships. Ramhalho is heading in that direction with her latest study using ant phylogeny to map how the diversity of the ants combines with the phylogeny of bacteria, determining if bacteria are evolving together with their hosts. For more details and why these findings might be significant, listen in.

For more about Manuela Ramalho, see her web page: manuelaramalho.wordpress.com.

Episode also available on Apple Podcasts: apple.co/30PvU9C

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