Lotta Sundström

My main research interests focus on three main avenues of research: the proximate and ultimate causes intracolony conflicts and their resolution, population biology encompassing causes and consequences of inbreeding, and caste-specific life history trade-offs with respect to disease resistance and longevity. 

The work on conflict resolution uses several approaches, including behavioural experiments, the analysis of recognition cues encoded in cuticular chemistry, and genetic assessment of kinship. In particular we ask to what extent can workers enhance their inclusive fitness given the fact that colonies of the study species, Formica fusca, regularly contain multiple reproductive queens.

The work on population biology and life history trade-offs entails several lines of questioning, all of which have their foundation in the long-term data set my group has collected on a population of Formica exsecta in the archipelago near the Tvärminne zoological station. Based on the demographic, productivity, and genotype data we have on ca 200 colonies we have determined the dispersal distance of young queens, and estimated population inbreeding and inbreeding depression. The aim is to estimate the life-time fitness of individual colonies, analyse the impact of climate factors on colony performance, and link all these questions to caste-specific trade-offs at the colony,  the individual, and the gene level.