Our Lab develops research on the behavior of social invertebrates, currently focused on the behavior of ants (Ponerinae, Ectatominnae and Dorylinae).

Postgraduate studies

Our lab supervise Master and Doctorate research on the Program in Experimental Psychology at USP (University of São Paulo), UFES (Federal University of Espírito Santo) and University and Master research in Ethology at the Université Paris 13, Paris, France

More about our Research Lines:

Psycho - Ethology of Social Insects: Effects of motivational and emotional internal states on cognitive skills, decision making and modulation of individual and collective behavior.

The existence of basic emotions in non-human vertebrates and their effect on behavioral decisions are currently well accepted by researchers on animal behavior. However, in insects, the issue is more controversial. Evidence of effects of internal states on decision making has been described in bees of various species and a few other genera, such as Drosophila. Social insects are suitable models to test these paradigms since social life presents high cognitive demands and behavioral flexibility. However, at the moment, controlled tests have never been done on ants. Thus, through a Psycho-ethological and integrative approach, we will investigate how the internal states of individuals, such as motivation and primary emotions, associated with cognitive skills, experience, and perception of the environment will influence decision-making and interactions within and between social and social groups modulates the nature and expression of behavior in ants, from the individual to the colonial, intra and interspecific level.

Evolution of communication and social recognition systems.

Evolution of communication systems and study of behavior in contexts of social recognition and intra-colonial reproductive conflicts. Along this line, we studied the mechanisms underlying the formation of dominance hierarchies, the importance of learning processes in the recognition of nestmates and the signals used during behavioral decision making. The methods used include experiments in a controlled laboratory situation, such as dyadic encounters, ad libitum observation of entire colonies as well as field experiments.

Impact of linear infrastructures and agriculture on environmental services in protected areas.

Roads are among the most ubiquitous landscape changes in the world and continue to expand sharply. New roads planned by 2050 represent an increase of 60% in the road network compared to the present day. Inevitably, remnants and protected areas will be impacted by this expansion. The roads caused a rapid transformation of the Atlantic Forest landscape, making it extremely fragmented and its lands highly economically valued. Currently, the Atlantic Forest is characterized by remnants of covering only 11 to 16% of its original area, with more than 80% of the existing fragments having less than 50 hectares, causing serious risks to populations of native species. The Amazon follows similar development as the Atlantic Forest, with major environmental impacts and social conflicts. A large network of linear enterprises is being installed in the Amazon. In this scenario, more than 95% of deforestation, fires and atmospheric carbon emissions in the Brazilian Amazon occur less than 50 kilometers from roads, demonstrating that these projects function effectively as vectors of secondary environmental impacts. The most visible impact is the trampling, but the loss of habitat is much greater than the area covered by them, as adjacent areas become less suitable for many animal species. In addition, roads restrict gene flow between populations, limiting the travel required to maintain healthy genetic diversity. In the context of plant species, the widely documented edge effect and the intensity of this effect reach varying distances depending on the size of the remnants and environmental factors. Agriculture also significantly affects its surroundings and interior of protected areas, mainly in relation to the intensity of the management adopted in the areas adjacent to the fragments (practices of soil mobilization and use of inputs) which has a negative effect on ecological processes from of the edge effect on forest remnants. Alteration of soil fertility in the remnants, depending on their size and environmental conditions, can alter the floristic composition, increasing the mortality rates of native plant species, reducing functional diversity and enabling the establishment of invasive species. Consequently, in progressive effect, it affects other species, soils, and the associated ecosystem services. We aim to understand the effects and consequences of roads and agriculture in and around protected areas covering the entire ecosystem, flora, fauna, and soils. Emphasis will be directed to endangered and game species of flora and fauna, species bioindicators of environmental impacts and species with fragmented original habitat, seeking to understand the effects of disturbances related to roads and agriculture on ecosystem processes, further contextualizing their consequences on the soil's environmental functions. 

Flexibility of foraging strategies in ants.

In this line, individual flexibility in decision-making and the collective integration of foraging behavior are studied through laboratory and field experiments. This line includes tests on spatial cognition.

Metrics of sociability in social spiders.

Spiders of the genus Anelosimus exhibit a wide diversity in the level of cooperation between individuals in the group, thus being an excellent model for assessing sociality measures. Through experiments in the laboratory, we seek to evaluate this flexibility in various contexts (foraging, construction of the web, parental care) and, more importantly, to quantify it in order to better classify the levels of cooperation