mercredi 25 juillet 2012

PhD on the plasticity of multimodal communication under sexual selection in a butterfly, Bicyclus anynana

Biodiversity Research Centre – Earth and Life Institute Université catholique de Louvain (UCL)

PhD on the plasticity of multimodal communication under sexual selection in a butterfly, Bicyclus anynana

PhD Position in Behavioral Ecology (f/m)
Project title
Plasticity of multimodal communication under sexual selection in a butterfly, Bicyclus anynana
Available position
A full time four-year PhD position is available at the Biodiversity Research Centre, Earth and Life Institute, University of Louvain-la-Neuve (UCL) in Belgium (
Description of the project
Individuals often show large phenotypic variation in sexual traits (signals and preferences), which affect their reproductive success. Phenotypic variation may be due to their genotype, to the environment(s) in which their phenotype is present, and to genotype-by-environment interactions (GEIs). The impact of GEIs on sexual selection has only recently drawn the attention of researchers. The project aims at assessing the role of GEIs on the variation observed in sexual traits and tests whether such variation has an adaptive value in mate choice. An integrative approach will allow investigating: 1) multiple phenotypic (visual, olfactory, gustatory) traits to grasp the full phenotype of the organism, forming its “lifestyle”, and 2) the adaptive value of phenotypic plasticity in both sexual signals and preferences in both sexes. More specifically, the project will aim at identifying the extent of plastic and genetic effects in male-female interactions due to signaling and preference for signals. Methods will include behavioral, chemical and statistical analyses to test the extent with which sexual signals and preference depend on individual quality, experience and on environmental conditions (e.g. [1,2]). The species under focus is an African tropical butterfly Bicyclus anynana, in which mutual mate choice and ornamentation has recently been shown [3]. This species is a model lab-reared system for studies in phenotypic plasticity, sexual selection and multimodal sexual communication [4]. Several sexually selected signals have recently been identified, namely male sex pheromones [5,6] and the UV-reflectance of male and female forewing eyespot centres [3,7]. We expect the results to contribute significantly to our understanding of the role phenotypic plasticity in sexual traits and other life history traits may play population or species adaption to reproduce in their environment.
The successful applicant will have the opportunity to develop various theoretical and technical skills in an integrative manner while carrying out the scientific research as detailed in the project description. She/he will have the opportunity to develop additional questions related to the main research project. She/he is expected to produce several manuscripts for publication in international peer-reviewed journals and disseminate this work at international conferences.
We are looking for a strongly motivated candidate with a MSc degree in Biology, with advanced courses in Evolutionary and/or Behavioral Biology and Ecology. Experience in behavioral and/or chemical ecology and written and oral communication skills in English are a plus, as is the ability to work efficiently, independently as well as in collaboration. The grant will be delivered upon successful written application (submission deadline: September 3rd 2012) and an oral interview in Brussels (October-November 2012), which can both be done either in English or French. The selected applicant will be supervised throughout the process. The degrees obtained abroad (outside Belgium) or in the Flemish Community will require an equivalence (necessary to provide documentation of passed examinations for 300 credits including a research work of at least six months during master with a scientific report; more information:
Work environment
The PhD student will work in a highly active and integrated academic environment, in the research team of Prof. C. Nieberding, including Dr. MJ Holveck and other postdocs and PhD students, and will interact with members of other research teams of the Institute, including Prof. H. Van Dyck. Our University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer, and is in a French-speaking region, but the language for meetings and scientific interactions is English. For background information about our university, see
Salary ranges between 21.349 to 23.659 euros brutto per year (approx. 1700 euros netto per month) and includes all social benefits such as health insurance and retirement benefits in the Belgian system. For practical information concerning salaries, benefits, insurances and conditions of eligibility please contact Mrs. N. Wittorski at UCL (; +32 (0) 10 47 29 22).
Application should be sent to Caroline Nieberding ( and Marie-Jeanne Holveck ( and include the following: (1) a cover letter describing your research interests and qualifications, (2) a full CV, (3) contact information (email, phone number) of minimum 2 referees. Only complete applications will be considered and should be sent preferably in one single digital pdf file. You are welcome to include a copy of your graduate work and/or reprints of published work. Applications will start being reviewed immediately and until the position is filled. Informal inquiries are welcome.
Please include « PhD application » in the subject line of the e-mail.
1. Holveck MJ, Geberzahn N, Riebel K (2011) An experimental test of condition-dependent male and female mate choice in zebra finches. Plos one 6.
2. Holveck MJ, Riebel K (2010) Low-quality females prefer low-quality males when choosing a mate. Proceedings of the Royal Society B-Biological Sciences 277: 153-160.
3. Prudic KL, Jeon C, Cao H, Monteiro A (2011) Developmental plasticity in sexual roles of butterfly species drives mutual sexual ornamentation. Science 331.
4. Brakefield PM, Beldade P, Zwaan BJ (2009) The African butterfly Bicyclus anynana: a model for evolutionary genetics and evolutionary developmental biology. In: R. R. Behringer ADJKRE, editor. Emerging model organisms: a laboratory manual. NY: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. pp. 291-329
5. Nieberding CM, de Vos H, Schneider MV, Lassance JM, Estramil N, et al. (2008) The male sex pheromone of the butterfly Bicyclus anynana: towards an evolutionary analysis. Plos One 3.
6. Nieberding CM, Fischer K, Saastamoinen M, Allen CE, Wallin EA, et al. (2012) Cracking the olfactory code of a butterfly: the scent of ageing. Ecology Letters 15: 415-424.
7. Costanzo K, Monteiro A (2007) The use of chemical and visual cues in female choice in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 274: 845-851