Kureck, Ilka

Ilka Kureck
Wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin

Curriculum Vitae


Since 11/10 PhD student in the group of Evolutionary Biology at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz
03/2009 – 10/2010 PhD student in the group of Behavioral Ecology, Ludwig- Maximilians-University of Munich
03/2008 Diploma, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-University Bonn Thesis title (translated): “The role of olfactory stimuli in the detection of forest fires by pyrophilous insects”
06/2002 “Abitur“ at the Paul-Klee Gymnasium Overath

Working experience/other activities

2009 - 2011 Field work at the Southwestern Research Station in Portal, Arizona, USA
08/2009 Participation in the “Ant Course 2009” at the Southwest Research Station, Portal, Arizona, USA
04/2009 – 09/2009 Secretary in the office of the Graduate Program for Ecology, Evolution and Systematics at the LMU Munich (EESLMU)
03/2009 – 10/2010 Student of the Graduate Program for Ecology, Evolution and Systematics (EES LMU)
08/2008 - 01/2009 Scientific Assistant at the Instiute of Zoology at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
2006–2008 Student Assistant at the Institute of Zoology at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn
02/2008 Field work in Western Australia (Diploma thesis)


Since 08/2009 Scholarship, Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes (German National Scholarship Foundation)
08/2009 and 07/2010 Student subsidy for field work at the Southwestern Research Station, AZ from the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
08/2009 and 09/2010 Travel Grant, Graduate Program EES LMU (2009: for field trip to Arizona, 2010: for participation in the international IUSSI meeting in Copenhagen, Denmark)

Posters and Oral Presentations

03/2011 Oral Presentation at the second Central European Meeting of the International Union for the Study of Social Insects (IUSSI) in Papenburg, Germany
Title: “Guarding of pupae and killing of young rivals – mate competition in wingless Hypoponera males”
08/2010 Poster Presentation on the XVI Congress of the International Union for The Study Of Social Insects (IUSSI) in Copenhagen, Denmark
Title: “Alternative reproductive tactics and the influence of local competition on sex allocation in the ant Hypoponera opacior


Intracolonial conflicts and the consequences of inbreeding in an ant with alternative reproductive tactics

Social insects are often regarded as model systems for cooperation. However, it can also come to conflicts among colony members. These intracolonial conflicts arise when selfish interests that are selected on the individual level counteract the interests of the colony or other individuals.

My study species, the neotropical ant Hypoponera opacior, exhibits alternative reproductive tactics in queens and males. In a population in the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona winged males and females conduct mating flights during the summer monsoon, followed by independent nest foundations by dealate queens. Wingless reproductives emerge in August, mate within or close to the mother nest and thereafter wingless queens start new colonies by budding.

Conflicts among colony members arise especially during the second reproductive season, when wingless sexuals mate within or close to the mother nest. Sex ratios are male-biased during this season and therefore males compete for mating partners. As a strategy to cope with local mate competition they show a special mating behavior: They copulate with very young queens that are still partially enclosed in their cocoon and mate-guard these for hours. Recently, I could show that males adapt the duration of mate guarding to the competitive situation in the nest. Next, I plan to investigate mechanisms of sperm competition in wingless castes.

Wingless queens, which are mostly already mated when they emerge from the cocoon, do not compete for mating partners but for the help of workers. They leave the nest and found new colonies in the vicinity. Thereby they are accompanied by a fraction of workers from the mother nest. I want to study the mechanisms of nest fragmentation using behavioral, genetic and chemical approaches. My goal is to find out whether and how workers decide which queen to follow during this budding phase and if their decision is based upon queen dominance, fertility or worker-queen relatedness.

Besides intracolonial conflicts I study how inbreeding affects H. opacior colonies. A former study revealed that there is a high inbreeding coefficient (Fis= 0.44) in H. opacior, which can be explained by frequent sibmatings during the second reproductive season of the year. I could already show that sterile diploid males, which are a costly outcome of inbreeding in many social Hymenoptera, occur, albeit their overall frequency is unclear. Next to the frequency of diploid males I will investigate inbreeding costs by studying nest productivity, demography and individual sizes. Genetic analyses will be conducted using microsatellite markers.

Wingless male of H. opacior in copula with a young
queen that is still enclosed in the cocoon


Kureck, I.M., B. Nicolai and S. Foitzik (in press). Similar performance of diploid and haploid males in an ant species without inbreeding avoidance. Ethology. doi: 10.1111/eth.12073

Kureck, I.M., E. Jongepier, B. Nicolai and S. Foitzik 2012. No inbreeding avoidance but increased sexual investment in highly inbred ant colonies. Molecular Ecology 21:5613-5623.

Kureck, I. M., Neumann A. and S. Foitzik 2011. Wingless ant males adjust mate-guarding behaviour to the competitive situation in the nest. Animal Behaviour doi:10.1016.

Foitzik S., Kureck I. M., Rüger M.H. and D. Metzler 2010. Alternative reproductive tactics and the impact of local competition on sex ratio in the ant Hypoponera opacior. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 64: 1641 – 1654

Foitzik S., Rüger M. H., Kureck I. M. and D. Metzler 2011. Macro- and microgeographic genetic structure in an ant species with alternative reproductive tactics in sexuals. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24: 2721-2730.


Southwestern Research Station, Portal, Arizona:
Link http://research.amnh.org/swrs/