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PRELUDIUM 10 (2016 - 2018)
PRELUDIUM 20 (currently)
SONATA 17 (currently)

Addictive and self-medicative behaviour in the honeybee

The project was initiated under the Preludium 10 funding (PI: Krzysztof Miler). We found the tolerance effect to alcohol in honeybees, suggesting the potential for workers to serve as a suitable model for alcoholism. Later, our experiments revealed honeybees developing withdrawal symptoms, a hallmark of alcoholism, following extended consumption of alcoholic foods. Now, under the Sonata 17 funding (PI: Krzysztof Miler), our research focuses on comparing the effects of null, low, and high consumption of alcohol on various life, body, and behavioural parameters in honeybees. Also, under the Preludium 20 funding (PI: Monika Ostap-Chec), we are investigating the potential benefits of alcohol in medicating common honeybee parasites, Nosema spores. In the project, we use behavioural, physiological, and molecular techniques.

Selected works:

Miler et al. 2018, Scientific Reports.

Ostap-Chec et al. 2021, Biology Letters.

Honey bee workers walking on a piece of comb. Photo: K. Miler
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SONATINA 6 (currently)
PRELUDIUM 21 (currently)

Patterns of diversity and distribution in tardigrades

The study of environmental gradients presents a unique opportunity to gain insights into the drivers of species richness. Relevant research on microscopic animals such as meiofauna, characterised by body sizes up to 1 mm, is limited in this context. We use limnoterrestrial tardigrades, a commonly found and morphologically diverse group of meiofauna, as our model. Accurate taxonomic identification, based on an integrative taxonomy approach and DNA metabarcoding, is crucial when working with tardigrades. Our research focus is on two different types of environmental gradients - altitude (Sonatina 6 funding, PI: Daniel Stec) and urbanization (Preludium 21 funding, PI: Bartłomiej Surmacz). These projects are highly integrative in character as they include morphological, morphometric, functional, ecological and genetic data collection.

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POLONEZ BIS 2 (currently)

Structure and dynamics of tardigrade metacommunities

Metacommunity ecology research concerning meiofauna has been lagging behind and it's crucial to address this research bias. Under the Polonez Bis 2 funding (PI: Matteo Vecchi), we seek to determine the underlying processes and effects relevant to the assembly of cryptibiotic tardigrade metacommunities within freshwater rock pools. These rock pools represent ephemeral habitats comprised by distinct units organized into spatially well-defined metacommunities. Freshwater rock pools harbor a high diversity of specialist and endemic species, and serve as reservoirs of dormant microbial eukaryotes. We try to establish rock pools as valuable model systems for the study of meiofauna metacommunity ecology. Using an interdisciplinary approach, we aim to comprehensively characterize the abiotic and biotic parameters of rock pool systems, including the composition of tardigrade species. By doing so, the project aims to pinpoint the key environmental and organismal factors influencing the dynamics of tardigrade metacommunities. The project is conducted in both Polish and Italian rock pool systems to provide a broader perspective on these intriguing habitats.

Selected works:

Vecchi et al. 2022, Hydrobiologia.

Rock pool filled with water. Photo: M. Vecchi
Formica cinerea ant workers walking on a sandy surface. Photo: K. Miler
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PRELUDIUM 16 (2019-2023)
BEKKER 4 (2022)

Altruistic and cooperative behaviour in ants

The project initiated in 2015 with a specific focus on rescue behaviour, the act of helping a nestmate in danger. This behaviour seemed to us remarkably prevalent across various ant species. Under the Preludium 16 funding (PI: Filip Turza), our research concentrated on whether the mean worker life expectancy in different species could account for variation in rescue proneness in these different taxa. Under the Bekker 4 funding (PI: Filip Turza), we explored the presence of vibroacoustic calls in the context of rescue behaviour, particularly among ants needing rescue. The project now continues under statutory research (PI: Krzysztof Miler). We focus on examining the effects of various ecological factors on the expression of rescue behaviour in the excellent rescuer, Formica cinerea. In the project, we use behavioural and molecular techniques.

Selected works:

Miler & Turza 2021, Biology.

Turza & Miler 2023, Animal Cognition.

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SONATINA 3 (2019 - 2022)
BEKKER 2 (2021 - 2022)

Cognitive behaviour in trap-building insects

After its inception, this project revolved around exploring the cognitive ecology of antlions, a group of insects characterized by their predatory larvae which, in some species, construct pit traps in sandy environments. In the past, funding from the Sonatina 3 and Bekker 2 projects (PI: Krzysztof Miler) enabled insights into the impact of temperature on various behaviours and learning processess exhibited by these larvae. Also, it allowed for the development of new methodological approaches for investigating operant learning in antlions. Currently, the project continues as part of statutory research (PI: Krzysztof Miler). Our focus is on testing broad ecological hypotheses on a cross-species scale and exploring potential convergence between antlions and another group of insects, wormlions, which are only distantly related but share the common characteristic of having predatory, trap-building larvae. In the project, we employ primarily behavioural techniques.

Selected works:

Miler et al. 2020, Behavioral Ecology. 

Miler & Scharf 2022, Animal Cognition.

Antlion traps distributed over a flat sandy area. Photo: K. Miler
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