PUBLIC TALK: The Evolutionary Biologist's Nightmare: Sex, Sperm and Society
|The Evolutionary Biologist's Nightmare: Sex, Sperm and Society : Public talk with Boris Baer (CIBER)
The reproductive biology of social insects, being the social bees, ants, wasps and termites is truly spectacular, as a number of characteristics reported are either absent or very rare in other species. For example, social insect queens are the world’s record holder for long-term sperm storage and some of them are capable to keep sperm alive for several decades. Furthermore males deliver an ejaculate to the female's sexual tract that consists of sperm and seminal fluid, the latter being also used as weaponry against competing males and to manipulate female reproductive behaviour. However the molecular details of sperm storage, long-term fertility or the chemical warfare between the sexes remain unknown. I provide an overview of ongoing research conducted at the University of Western Australia that uses state of the art molecular technologies as well as field based experiments to unveil some of the secrets of social insect reproduction.
Boris Baer, born in 1969 is an Evolutionary Biologist. He studied Biology at the University of Zurich in Switzerland. After fieldwork on primates in South America (French Guyana) he performed a PhD 1997-2000 at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology (ETH) in Zurich. He then moved as a Postdoctoral Fellow (2001-2004) to the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) and was invited as a Junior Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin (Germany). He received a Queen Elizabeth II fellowship and a ARC Future Fellowship from the Australian Research Council, which allowed him to continue his research at the University of Western Australia in Perth. Since 2007 he is also an external collaborator of the Centre for Social Evolution based at Copenhagen University. Since 2008, he coordinates a newly initiated honeybee research group at the University of Western Australia, known as CIBER (The Centre for Integrative Bee Research, see www.ciber.science.uwa.edu.au). The main scientific interest of Boris Baer is the study of sexual reproduction in social insects, especially the way evolution has shaped some of these spectacular mating systems. He uses several social insect models systems for his work such as bumblebees, honeybees and leaf cuttings ants.
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