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Evolutionary Ecology of Plant–Insect Interactions

Collage of photos of two thistles and two flies.
The melancholy thistle Cirsium heterophyllum, the fly Tephrititis conura and the cabbage thistle Cirsium olearaceum. Credit: T. Diegisser.

We are interested in the processes that generate biodiversity. Our research program strives to understand the evolutionary forces driving diversification and adaptation, and address how species interactions have made plants and plant-feeding insects two of the most diverse and abundant groups of organisms on earth. We combine genomic, evolutionary and ecological studies to ask and answer questions about the distribution, diversification and conservation of biodiversity within and among species, and in particular how these patterns and processes are affected by the interaction between plants and insects. Our research bridges the gap between zoology and botany by integrating studies of animal- and plant biodiversity.

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Study objects: the alpine rock cress (Arabis alpina), the interaction between woodland star plants (Lithophragma spp.) and pollinating Greya moths, and a female cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae), ovipositing on an Indian cress (Tropaeolum majus)

Within- and among species variations

Broadly, we strive to understand how variation within- and among species arise, using several different study systems, each including plant- and insect species that form small interaction networks. In these networks, we study spatial patterns in plant signaling and defense traits and insect host- /and nectar plant preference, and how these interactions are affected by the nature of the plant-insect relationship (antagonistic/mutualistic), by the specificity of the interaction, and by the geographic context at landscape- and continent scales. We are also interested in how within species variation enables and facilitates adaptation, knowledge that is crucial for management of insect populations that can adapt and survive in a changing climate.

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Field site in Sierra Nevada, California
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Contact information

Magne Friberg
Associate Senior Lecturer, Docent
Biodiversity

Telephone: +46 46 222 8968
E-mail: Magne [dot] Friberg [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Anna Runemark
Associate Senior Lecturer, Docent
Biodiversity

Telephone: +46 46 222 3613
E-mail: Anna [dot] Runemark [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se

Øystein Opedal 
Associate Senior Lecturer
Biodiversity

Telephone: +47 92233189
E-mail: oystein [dot] opedal [at] biol [dot] lu [dot] se