A colony of ants is a superorganism: each individual depends on and contributes to the function of the group. An ant colony is therefore analogous to a unitary organism, like a plant or animal, whose cells cooperate to form a larger whole.

Like cells, group behavior in ants is orchestrated by continuous communication between individuals. In ants, this is achieved via a wide range of pheromones. Also similar to cells, the ants in a colony typically differentiate into a germ line (the reproductive queen caste) and a soma (the non-reproductive worker caste(s)) via phenotypic plasticity.

In our lab we attempt to understand sophisticated features of ant biology from the perspective of molecular genetics and evolutionary developmental biology. We accomplish this by adopting new model organisms that are ideally suited for mechanistic laboratory research. These include the clonal raider ant, Ooceraea biroi, and ants of the genus Leptothorax, both of which possess evolutionarily relevant genetic variation that can be studied in a laboratory context.