Huthmacher, Selina

Curriculum Vitae

Since 2022 PhD student, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz
Thesis: “Biophysical and functional consequences of cuticular hydrocarbon variation in ants”
Supervisor: PD Dr. Florian Menzel
2018-2020 M.Sc. Biology, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz
Thesis: “Evolutionary history of the symbiosis in beetles of the subfamily Dasytinae”’
Supervisor: Dr. Martin Kaltenpoth
2014-2018 B.Sc. Biology, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz
Thesis: “Aufreinigung und Analyse von rekombinantem Ovastacin”

Research Interests

My main interest is the function of the cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) layer in ants. This layer can consist of up to 100 different chemical compounds and covers the cuticle of all terrestrial insects. The main CHC classes of this layer are n-alkanes, methyl branched alkanes, alkenes and alkadienes, which come with different physical properties like waterproofing ability and melting point, and therefore influence the characteristics of the CHC profile. Next to communication and pathogen defense, the CHC layer plays an important role in protecting the insect’s body against desiccation, and therefore to cope with changing climatic conditions of an insect’s environment. The composition of the CHC layer can vary quantitatively between conspecifics, while sister taxa can have also qualitative differences. In addition to the variation between different individuals, the CHC profile of a single individual can be changed due to climatic factors. In my phD project I will investigate the physical properties of the CHC layer which influence the desiccation protection and I will have a look at how acclimation changes these properties and therefore affect survival.

My research project focuses on the European ant species Myrmica rubra and Myrmica ruginodis. These sister species differ significantly in their CHC profiles, however both species occur under the same climate regimes and often coexist next to each other. While the CHC-profile of M. rubra mostly consist of methyl branched alkanes, the CHCs of M. ruginodis are for the most part unsaturated compounds.  I will collect these two species from a maritime to a continental climate regime across Europe, to examine if the local climate has an impact on the CHC profile. Further I will analyze if the ants from different climatic habitats vary in their ability to acclimate to different constant and fluctuating temperatures. For that I will investigate the chemical composition as well as the physical properties like viscosities and melting ranges of CHC layers of differently acclimated ants. I will also study how acclimation affects the survival of ants under dry conditions and how much water is lost through the CHC layer.

In addition to that I am interested in the pathogen defense the CHCs offer. As fungi are a naturally occurring enemy for soil and wood living ants, I will analyze how different CHC profiles affect fungal growth on the ant’s cuticle, both in dependence of species and differently acclimated populations.

In summary, this study will provide us with information about the acclimation dependent plasticity of the CHC layer and how this has functional consequences for the insect in protection against desiccation and pathogens and therefore will let us know how ant species can cope with changing climatic conditions.


Institute of Organismic and Molecular Evolution
Selina Huthmacher
Hanns-Dieter-Hüsch-Weg 15
55128 Mainz Germany