Aarhus University Seal / Aarhus Universitets segl

TRINE BILDE - Ecology, genomics and adaptation

Environmental adaptation:

We study genetic and phenotypic variation of natural populations, and the evolutionary processes that drive the distribution of populations and adaptive responses to the environment. We are also interested in factors that influence the expression of different phenotypic traits in different environments. This includes interactions between a host and its microbiome, and epigenetic regulation of phenotypes.

Social spiders show extremely low genetic variation but occupy wide habitat ranges with strong temperature and humidity gradients. We are interested in understanding how genetic, epigenetic, and microbiome variation vary with environmental variation to shape phenotypic responses. Our research is mainly performed on the African genus Stegodyphus that contains both social and subsocial (pre-social) spiders, which allows us to perform comparative studies.

Evolutionary biology of sociality in spiders:

The social spiders are unusual among group living animals, as the transition to permanent sociality is associated with strong inbreeding, cooperative breeding, and highly female-biased sex ratios. Our research aims to understand the ecology and evolution of sociality; the drivers and adaptive significance of sex-ratio bias; population genomic consequences of inbreeding; and consequences of the transition to inbreeding for genomic architecture and evolution.

Sexual selection:

We also study sexual selection and alternative male mating strategies in Pisaura mirabilis spiders. Males provide females with a nuptial gift to obtain a mating, in the form of an insect prey wrapped in white silk. Sometimes males wrap worthless objects such as exoskeletons or plant parts that are worthless for females. Males also play dead – thanatosis – as a male mating effort. We aim to understand the evolution and maintenance of male alternative mating strategies across natural populations.