we are a group of researchers working at wood-boring insects, predominantly on termites and beetles. Our research combines field and lab work, and there is a topic for everyone devoted to work and committed to science. We use different methodological approaches, including classical entomology, histology, optical and electron microscopy, molecular biology, behavioural studies, analytical chemistry and acoustics, either by our own or in collaboration with other teams in the Czech Republic as well as abroad.
Please, find some general and specific topics for your theses below. I will be happy If you have your own topics, ideas or additional inquiries, I will be happy to reply you from email address sobotnik (et) fld.czu.cz (Don’t forget to replace (et) by @ before texting me).
Broader topics of our interest:
- Relationships between wood-feeding insects and microbial communities in their environment.
- Do microbial communities in wood influence its palatability for termites?
- Evolution of endosymbiotic communities of termites.
- Molecular basis of termite symbionts specialisation to the host species.
- Genome coevolution between termites and their fungal symbionts.
- Functional significance of members of symbiotic communities in termites.
- Influence of xenochemicals on organic matter decomposition by termites and composition of microbial communities in the substrate (wood and soil).
- Comparison of bacterial communities in the gut, mycetomatic organs and in the food of wood-feeding insects.
- Structure, ontogenesis and evolution of exocrine glands in wood-boring insects.
- Metamorphosis of selected organs in wood-feeding insects.
Examples of Master thesis topics:
Preliminary observation: One of the important factors determining composition of bacterial communities in Coptotermes workers is their life style in native range versus introduced populations. We hypothesise that the composition of symbiotic communities is altered in response to changed way-of-life of invasive species.
Material: 100+ samples of about 30 Coptotermes species. Additional samples of Coptotermes urban pests from Malaysia (Prof. Chow-Yang Lee), Taiwan (Dr. Hou-Feng Li) and Florida (Dr. Thomas Chouvenc) are available.
Aims: Testing the hypothesis that specific microbiome significantly changes with every new colonization event. Understanding feeding biology of the most destructive pest at global scale.
Coxotermes boukokoensis family structure
Observation: Multiple primaries in the same chamber, in at least 2 independent colonies of Coxotermes boukokoensis living inside 2 different Odontotermes nests. The reproductives looked in a good shape, running, just slightly physogastric.
Material: All primary reproductives, several soldiers and 20+ workers of each of two colonies.
Aim: Disentangle population structure of Coxotermes boukokoensis
Background: Reproductives are often replaced or supplemented in colonies of basal termite species. Increasing niche-specialisation observed in “higher” termites leads to lower abilities to overcome orphaning situations, what is commonplace in all Termitidae. However, several taxa of wood-feeding Termitidae are able to replace missing reproductives. In soil-feeding termites, replacement of reproductives is always connected to parthenogenesis making the queen producing clones (although neotenic) of her. We collected unique material that can be another interesting exception to the role that termite colonies are headed by a pair of unrelated reproductives.
Spinitermes maggot termitophile
Observation: We collected tens of large maggots associated with Spinitermes trispinosus living as inquiline inside Neocapritermes taracua nest! These termitophiles exceeded the host in terms of body mass, and were perfectly integrated into S. trispinosus colony, while quickly killed by N. taracua.
Material: For genetics 3 fly adults reared from larvae, 8 larvae sampled; additional voucher material for morphological studies.
Aims: Confirm that the adult flies belong to the same species like maggots. Find out the diet of maggots. As they cannot be fed by the host, they supposedly prey at N. taracua nest builder. This hypothesis is to be tested through amplification of DNA specific to N. taracua from the maggot foregut
Evolution of frontal gland in termite workers
Background: Frontal gland is a defensive organ specific to advanced termites (Neoisoptera). The gland occurs in (almost) all soldiers, presoldiers and many winged imagoes. However, its presence in workers was confirmed only in several species of Apicotermitinae. We dispose a rich set of sample preparations, and some more are to be added in order to provide exhausting survey of frontal gland structure in termite workers.
Material and methods: Sections of about 20 species already available, about 10 more are to be added in order to provide a good taxonomical coverage. All samples will be studied by methods of optical microscopy, and selected representatives also by transmission electron microscopy.
Aim: To formulate hypothesis on evolution of frontal glands in worker caste of termites.