My research focuses on chemical ecology and community ecology in ants. Ants communicate through their cuticular hydrocarbons, which cover their body surface and can be sensed by other individuals through olfaction. Cuticular hydrocarbons contain information about its bearer’s species membership, colony membership, gender, mating status, etc. In my research I study how these cuticular hydrocarbon profiles are influenced by climatic and ecological factors and phylogenetic constraints. I am especially interested in their role in interspecific interactions, e.g. in specialised (commensalistic) ant-ant interactions, mutualistic ant-aphid interactions, or competitive interactions between different ant species. In addition, I work on the ecology of highly diverse tropical ant communities. How do so many species manage to co-occur without competitive exclusion? I investigate the functions they fulfil in the ecosystem, and study the niche differentiation among co-occurring ant species.
Key techniques: Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry, ant sampling in the field, behavioral experiments, multivariate community analyses
Research system/organism: Various ants (especially Myrmica rubra and Temnothorax nylanderi), aphids, spiders, wood crickets (Nemobius sylvestris)
- Menzel F, Orivel J, Kaltenpoth M, Schmitt T (2014): What makes you a potential partner? Insights from convergently evolved ant-ant symbioses. Chemoecology DOI 10.1007/s00049-014-0149-2
- Binz H, Bucher R, Entling MH, Menzel F (2013): Knowing the risk: Crickets distinguish between spider predators of different size and commonness. Ethology 119: 1-12
- Menzel F, Schmitt T (2011): Tolerance requires the right smell: first evidence for interspecific selection on chemical recognition cues. Evolution 66-3: 896-904
- Lang C, Menzel F (2011): Lasius niger ants discriminate aphids based on their cuticular hydrocarbons. Animal Behaviour 82: 1245-1254
- Blüthgen N, Menzel F, Hovestadt T, Fiala B, Blüthgen N (2007): Specialization, constraints, and conflicting interests in mutualistic networks. Current Biology 17: 341-346