Kleeberg, Isabelle

Isabelle Kleeberg
Scientific Assistant

Curriculum Vitae


Since 2012 PhD student at the JGU Mainz
2006 – 2012 Zoology, botany und Humanphysiology at the JGU Mainz; Degree: Diploma
(Master) Title : „Benefits of inducible defenses against slaveraids“
1996 – 2005 Jugenddorf Christophorus school Elze, Abitur

Field trips

2011-2014 field work (collection of ant colonies) in the USA and Canada (NY, OH, WI, WV, VI, MI, NH, ME, MA, NJ, IL, IN, KY, Montreal) four to eight weeks
2010 Marine botany excursion in france (Bretagne); „Influence of the tides on the photosynthesis of algae“
2009 Marine zoology excursion in France (Banyuls sur mér); „Zooplankton, Chaetognatha and Tunicata, Morphology"


2013 BEHAVIOUR 2013 Conference in Newcastle, England. Oral presentation:
„Aggression as a behavioural defense trait against social parasites“.
2013 Forschergruppen Treffen in Munich, Germany. Oral presentation:
“Geographic mosaic of host defenses“.


IUSSI Conference in Montecatini Terme, Italy. Posterpresentation:
„Slavemakers select for high aggression host colonies“.


Since 2012 Co-supervision of three bachelor thesis (16 weeks), three research practical in evolutionary biology (6 weeks) and one master thesis starting in May 2014 (8 months)
2010 – 2011 Teaching assistant in various undergraduate practical in zoology and botany


2014 „IUSSI Travel Grant“ for attendance at the conference in Cairns, Australia.
2014 Travel Grant from the „Gleichstellungsbeauftragten“ of the University of Mainz for attendance at the conference in Cairns, Australia.
2013 Huyck preserve research grand: “The proximate basis of slave rebellion” together with E. Jongepier.
2013 Travel Grant from the „Gleichstellungsbeauftragten“ of the University of Mainz for attendance at the conference “BEHAVIOUR” in Newcastle, England.
2012 Huyck preserve research grant: “Reciprocal adaptations underlying the slave rebellion trait.” together with E. Jongepier.
2011 Huyck preserve research grant: “Evolution of anti-parasite defenses in Temnothorax ants.” together with T. Pamminger and A. Modlmeier.

Research Interests

Research interest

Different types of social structures are common in the animal kingdom, starting with simple groups of animals that interact with each other and ending in the most complex form of eusociality in ants. Living in an insect society has lots of benefits which can be exploited by other organisms such as social parasites. Social parasitism is common in ants and shows different forms of exploitation. My research is focused on the slavemaking ants Protomognathus americanus, Temnothorax duloticus and the not described species T. spp.. These slavemaking ants parasitize three host species Temnothorax longispinosus, T. curvispinosus and T. ambiguus. They exploit the brood care behavior of their hosts as they regularly conduct raids to steal more host brood that will then be the next batch of slaves. Slavemakers depend on their slaves as they are not able to do all the routine tasks for their colony by themselves. This behavior has detrimental effects on the hosts whereas the hosts develop defense strategies to circumvent this exploitation. These mechanisms, the evolution and potential costs of such defense strategies and chemical adaptations by the parasites are the main focus of my PhD.

Raid of P. americanus, (video).


In my PhD-Project I focus on the impact of parasites on behavior, the chemical profiles and population genetics of the host species. In detail I am interested in different aspects of defense strategies in differently parasitized populations. The selection pressures on the hosts differ between geographically distant populations due to different parasitation rates and therefore we expect different expressions of defense strategies between these populations (“geographic mosaic of coevolution”). Moreover I will compare the evolution of chemical adaptations between three different slavemakers. As ants recognize each other via their chemical hydrocarbons on the cuticle, slavemakers should either try to match the cuticular hydrocarbons of their hosts (chemical mimicry) or to show no profile at all (chemical insignificance). Both strategies would help the parasite during raids to enter host colonies more easily. Additionally I focus on a special and currently discovered defense trait, the so called slave rebellion. Slaves selectively kill the pupae of P. americanus thereby reducing the colony growth. Indeed we find very small slavemaker colonies in the field; however we also find extremely large colonies. Here we are interested if the slave rebellion trait is therefore not expressed in large colonies or if the slavemaker is better adapted against this defense trait. We further want to investigate whether we also find this defense strategy in the other two slavemaker species T. duloticus and T. pilagens. These questions will be investigated using behavioral experiments and GC-MS analyses.


Kleeberg I, Jongepier E, Job S and Foitzik S. "Geographic variation in social parasite pressure predicts intra- but not interspecific aggressive responses in hosts of a slavemaking ant. Ethology, in press.

Kleeberg I & Foitzik S. The placid slavemaker: avoiding detection and conflict as an alternative, peaceful raiding strategy. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, in press.

Jongepier E, Kleeberg I, Foitzik S. The ecological success of a social parasite increases with manipulation of collective host behaviour. J Evol Biol, in press.

Jongepier, E., Kleeberg, I., Job S. & Foitzik, S. Collective defense portfolios of ant hosts shift with social parasite pressure. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, in press.

Kleeberg, I., Pamminger, T., Jongepier, E., Papenhagen, M, and Foitzik, S. (2014): „Forewarned is forearmed: Aggression and information use determine fitness costs of slave raids.” Behavioural Ecology, 25 (5): 1058-1063.

Seifert, B., Kleeberg, I., Feldmeyer, B., Pamminger, T., Jongepier, E. and Foitzik, S. (2014): „Temnothorax pilganes sp. n. – a new slave-making species of the tribe Formicoxenini from Nor
th America (Hymenoptera, Formicidae). ZooKeys, 368, 65 – 77.

Pamminger, T., Leingärtner A., Achenbach A., Kleeberg I., Pennings P.S. and Foitzik S. (2013): “Geographic distribution of the anti-parasite trait “slave rebellion.” Evolutionary Ecology, 27 (1), 39 – 49.