(Epi-)Genetics of social evolution

Our group is interested in the evolution of social behaviour taking an integrative approach from behavioural ecology over genomics to epigenetics. We focus on ants and occasionally on bees as model organisms as behaviours of these social animals are selected on different levels, are highly complex and include cooperative as well as conflict behaviours. We investigate the role of plasticity to generate different phenotypes via differential gene expression. We study the evolution of life history strategies, ageing and genomes of social insects. We are interested in how parasites affect and manipulate social insects and whether and how hosts can defend themselves against these attacks.

Research website

Positions held

  • Since 2010: Professor in Evolutionary Biology, Johannes Gutenberg University, (JGU), Mainz
  • 2004 - 2010: Professor in Behavioral Ecology, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich
  • 2000 - 2004: Scientific Assistant, University of Regensburg
  • 1998 - 2000: Postdoctoral Fellow, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, USA


  • 1998: PhD in Biology, Julius Maximilians University Würzburg
  • 1995: Diploma in Biology, Julius Maximilians University Würzburg

Selected publications by Susanne Foitzik

Negroni MA, Macit MN, Stoldt M, Feldmeyer B, Foitzik S (2021) Molecular regulation of lifespan extension in fertile ant workers. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 376(1823):20190736 Link

Negroni MA, Segers F, Vogelweith F, Foitzik S (2020) Immune challenge reduces gut microbial diversity and triggers fertility-dependent gene expression changes in a social insect. BMC Genomics, 21:816 Link

Libbrecht R, Nadrau D, Foitzik S (2020) A role of histone acetylation in the regulation of circadian rhythm in ants. IScience, 23: 100846 Link

Kaur R, Stoldt M, Jongepier E, Feldmeyer B, Menzel F, Bornberg-Bauer E and Foitzik S (2019) Ant behaviour and brain gene expression of defending hosts depend on the ecological success of the intruding social parasite. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 374:1769 Link

Kohlmeier P, Alleman A, Libbrecht R, Foitzik S* and Feldmeyer B* (2018) Gene expression is more strongly associated with behavioural specialisation than with age or fertility in ant workers. Molecular Ecology, 28: 658-670 (*indicates joint contribution) Link

Kohlmeier P, Feldmeyer B* and Foitzik S* (2018) Vitellogenin-like A - associated shifts in social cue responsiveness regulate behavioral task specialization in an ant. Plos Biology, 16(6):e2005747 (*indicates joint contribution) Link