Fermer

Mark Szenteczki

PhD student

Research interests

I am broadly interested in the origins of biodiversity, and understanding how traits interact and contribute to the diversification of populations, species, and entire clades of organisms. My research spans all three levels, with projects focused on population-level adaptations, range-wide genetic diversity within species, and phylogenetic relationships among species. Using a combination of field collections and modern molecular methods (i.e. next-generation sequencing and bioinformatics), I aim to uncover the evolutionary and demographic histories of non-model organisms, and the molecular bases of local adaptations.

Main topics

Currently, I am studying the ecology and evolution of deceptive pollination via olfactory signaling, under an SNF research grant awarded to Nadir Alvarez and Sergio Rasmann. Many flowering plants rely on mutualistic relationships with animals, particularly insects, for pollination. However, some have developed deceptive pollination tactics – signaling rewards for pollinators without providing any. In many cases, these signals are cocktails of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) produced by the flowers.

The aim of my doctoral thesis is to understand how plant-insect interactions can shape adaptive variations in floral scent. We use Arum maculatum, which are deceptively pollinated by several species of Psychodid moth-flies, as our model for this work. My research focuses on connecting genetic polymorphisms in Arum maculatum to key phenotypes (e.g. odor), and their ultimate impacts on plant fitness. To accomplish these aims, we are combining leading-edge tools and techniques in:

  • Chemical Ecology
  • Molecular Ecology
  • Phylogenomics.

Ultimately, we hope this research will provide valuable insights into local adaptation, ecological and genetic differentiation, and speciation within deceptive pollination systems.

Teaching activities

  • From genes to ecosystems.

Publications

Szenteczki M, Pitteloud C, Casacci LP, Kešnerová L, Whitaker MRL, Engel P, Vila R, & Alvarez N. (2019) Bacterial communities within Phengaris (Maculineaalcon caterpillars are shifted following transition from solitary living to social parasitism of Myrmica ant colonies. Ecology and Evolution 9:4452–4464. PDF

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Mark Szenteczki

mark.szenteczki@unine.ch

D219

+ 41 32 718 23 16