Menzel, Florian PD Dr.

PD Dr. Florian Menzel
Group leader


Curriculum Vitae

2021-2022 Replacement professor for Evoutionary Animal Ecology at the JGU Mainz
since August 2018 Heisenberg fellow of the German Research Foundation (DFG)
December 2016 Venia legendi in Ecology and Evolution
since 2011 Group Leader at the Institute of Zoology, University of Mainz
2009-2011 Research and teaching at the community Ecology group, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern
2006-2009 PhD thesis: "Mechanisms and adaptive significance of interspecific assocations between tropical ant species"; field work in Sabah and Sarawak/Malaysian Borneo
2005 Diploma thesis: "Crematogaster-Camponotus Associations in a Tropical Rainforest: Mechanisms and Specificity of Interspecific Recognition"; field work in Sabah/Malaysian Borneo
2000-2005 studies in Biology at the University of Würzburg (Germany), including two semesters at Duke University (Durham, NC, USA) and research semester at Gruffith University (Brisbane, Australia)

Research Interests

I am fascinated by biological diversity – not only diversity of species, but also diversity of traits. Our group studies how traits evolve and function, but also which role they play in interspecific interactions. Here, we focus on chemical traits (insect cuticular hydrocarbons) and behavioural traits. I study how traits mediate biotic interactions – which traits are important for niche differentiation, and which ones are important for competitive interactions (or the avoidance thereof). Most of my studies are about ants. These social insects developed a sophisticated communication system to enable division of labour and work together effectively. These biotic interactions within an ant colony are mostly mediated by chemical signals – more precisely, cuticular hydrocarbons.

Biodiversity is in a crisis right now. We lose species at unprecedented rates, due to climate change, but also due to other causes (see here and here). Therefore, I also try to understand which traits affect a species’ or an individual’s ability to cope with climate change, especially with increasing drought stress – and here, cuticular hydrocarbons become important. To conserve insect biodiversity, I engage in outreach – informing the public about insect conservation and its links to society, agriculture and politics (e.g. here). The Interactive Insect Campus is a collaboration with Prof. Daniel Dreesmann, where we conduct practical insect conservation, but also implement innovative teaching methods to pass on our enthusiasm for insects.

Please see my Group page to learn more about our current research.


Gossner MM*, Menzel F*, Simons NK* (2023): Less overall, but more of the same: drivers of insect population trends lead to community homogenization. Biology Letters *all three authors contributed equally.

Ünlü AG, Obrycki JJ, Menzel F, Bucher R (2023). The role of chemical cue similarity in interactions between ants and native versus non-native lady beetles in North America. Animal Behaviour, 203: 21-28.

Menges V, Späth S, Menzel F (2023). Temporally consistent behavioural variation between wild ant colonies is robust to strong seasonal and thermal variation. Animal Behaviour.

Baumgart L, Schaa EM, Menzel F, Joel AC (2022). Change of mechanical characteristics in spider silk capture threads after contact with prey. Acta Biomaterialia 153: 355-363.

Baumgart L, Wittke M, Morsbach S, Abou B, Menzel F (2022). Why do ants differ in acclimatory ability? Biophysical mechanisms behind cuticular hydrocarbon acclimation across species. Journal of Experimental Biology 225: jeb243847.

Wittke M, Baumgart L, Menzel F (2022). Acclimation in ants: Interference of communication and waterproofing through cuticular hydrocarbons in a multifunctional trait. Functional Ecology 36: 1973-1985.

Salas-López A, Violle C, Munoz F, Menzel F, Orivel J (2022): Effects of Habitat and Competition on Niche Partitioning and Community Structure in Neotropical Ants. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 10: 863080.

Joel A, Schmitt D, Baumgart L,  Menzel F (2022). Insect cuticular hydrocarbon composition influences their interaction with spider capture threads. Journal of Experimental Biology 225: jeb242514.

Bucher R, Japke LM, Ünlü AG, Menzel F (2021): Interactions of ants with native and invasive lady beetles and the role of chemical cues in intraguild interference. Chemoecology 31: 323-334.

Sprenger PP1, Hartke J1, Schmitt T, Menzel F2, Feldmeyer B2 (2021): Candidate genes involved in cuticular hydrocarbon differentiation between cryptic, parabiotic ant species G3 Genes | Genomes | Genetics 11: jkab078 (1,2 authors contributed equally)

Beros S, Lenhart A, Scharf I, Negroni MN, Menzel F, Foitzik S (2021): Extreme lifespan extension in tapeworm-infected ant workers. Royal Society Open Science 8: 202118

Sprenger PP*, Gerbes L*, Sahm J, Menzel F (2021): Cuticular hydrocarbon profiles differ between body parts: implications for communication and our understanding of CHC diffusion. Current Zoology, doi: 10.1093/cz/zoab012

Menzel F, Feldmeyer B (2021): How does climate change affect social insects? Current Opinion in Insect Science 46: 10-15.

Houadria M, Menzel F (2021): Digging Deeper into the Ecology of Subterranean Ants: Diversity and Niche Partitioning across Two Continents. Diversity 13: 53

Choppin M, Graf S, Feldmeyer B, Libbrecht R, Menzel F, Foitzik S (2021): Queen and worker phenotypic traits are associated with colony composition and environment in Temnothorax rugatulus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), an ant with alternative reproductive strategies Myrmecological News 31: 61-69

Sprenger PP*, Müsse C*, Hartke J,  Feldmeyer  B, Schmitt T, Gebauer G, Menzel F (2020):  Dinner with the roommates: Trophic niche differentiation and competition in a mutualistic ant-ant association. Ecological Entomology 46: 562-572 (*authors contributed equally)

Hartke J, Waldvogel A-M, Sprenger PP, Schmitt T, Menzel F, Pfenninger M, Feldmeyer B (2020): Little parallelism in genomic signatures of local adaptation in two sympatric, cryptic sister species; Journal of Evolutionary Biology 34: 937-952

Mestre L, Narimanov N, Menzel F, Entling M (2020): Non-consumptive effects between predators depend on the foraging mode of intraguild prey. Journal of Animal Ecology, doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.13224

Houadria M, Menzel F (2020): Temporal and dietary niche is context-dependent in tropical ants. Ecological Entomology 45: 761–770

Menzel F, Morsbach S, Martens JH, Räder P, Hadjadje S, Poizat M, Abou B (2019): Communication vs. waterproofing: the physics of insect cuticular hydrocarbons. Journal of Experimental Biology, 222(23): jeb210807.

Sprenger PP, Hartke J, Feldmeyer B, Orivel J, Schmitt T, Menzel F (2019). Influence of mutualistic lifestyle, mutualistic partner, and climate on cuticular hydrocarbonprofiles in parabiotic Ants. Journal of Chemical Ecology, 45: 741-754.

Hartke J, Schell T, Jongepier E, Schmidt H, Sprenger PP, Paule J, Bornberg-Bauer E, Schmitt T, Menzel F, Pfenninger M, Feldmeyer B (2019). Hybrid genome assembly of a neotropical mutualistic ant. Genome Biology and Evolution, 11: 2306-2311

Hartke J*, Sprenger PP*, Sahm J, Winterberg H, Orivel J, Baur H, Beuerle T, Schmitt T, Feldmeyer B*, Menzel F* (2019) Cuticular hydrocarbons as potential mediators of cryptic species divergence in a mutualistic ant association. Ecology and Evolution 9: 9160-9176 (*authors contributed equally)

Grevé M, Houadria M, Andersen A, Menzel F (2019). Niche differentiation in rainforest ant communities across three continents. Ecology and Evolution 9: 8601-8615.

Kaur R, Stoldt M, Jongepier E, Feldmeyer B, Menzel F, Bornberg-Baur E, 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: 20180192.

Rosumek FB, Blüthgen N, Brückner A, Menzel F, Gebauer G, Heethoff M (2018): Unveiling community patterns and trophic niches of tropical and temperate ants using an integrative framework of field data, stable isotopes and fatty acids. PeerJ 6: e5467

Beros S, Enders C, Menzel F, Foitzik S (2019). Parasitism and queen presence interactively shape worker behaviour and fertility in an ant host. Animal Behaviour, 148: 63-70.

Menzel F, Zumbusch M, Feldmeyer B (2018): How ants acclimate: impact of climatic conditions on the cuticular hydrocarbon profile. Functional Ecology, 32: 657-666

Sprenger PP, Burkert LH, Abou B, Federle W, Menzel F (2018): Coping with the climate: Cuticular hydrocarbon acclimation of ants under constant and fluctuating conditions. Journal of Experimental Biology, doi: 10.1242/jeb.171488

Beros S, Foitzik S, Menzel F (2017): What are the mechanisms behind a parasite-induced decline in nestmate recognition in ants? Journal of Chemical Ecology 43: 869–880

Rosumek FB, Brückner A, Blüthgen N, Menzel F, Heethoff M (2017): Patterns and dynamics of neutral lipid fatty acids in ants - implications for ecological studies. Frontiers in Zoology 14:36

Houadria M, Menzel F (2017): What determines the importance of a species for ecosystem processes? Insights from tropical ant assemblages. Oecologia 184: 885-899

Bott RA, Baumgartner W, Bräunig P, Menzel F, Joel A-C (2017): Adhesion enhancement of structural capture threads by epicuticular waxes of the insect prey sheds new light on spider web evolution. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 284: 20170363

Menzel F, Schmitt T, Blaimer BB (2017): The evolution of a complex trait: cuticular hydrocarbons in ants evolve independent from phylogenetic constraints. Journal of Evolutionary Biology doi: 10.1111/jeb.13115

Junker RR, Kuppler J, Amo L, Blande JD, Borges RM, van Dam NM, Dicke M, Dötterl S, Ehlers B, Etl F, Gershenzon J, Glinwood R, Gols R, Groot AT, Heil M, Hoffmeister M, Holopainen JK, Jarau S, John L, Kessler A, Knudsen JT, Kost C, Larue-Kontic AAC, Leonhardt SD, Lucas-Barbosa D, Majetic CJ, Menzel F, Parachnowitsch AL, Pasquet RS, Poelman EH, Raguso RA, Ruther J, Schiestl FP, Schmitt T, Tholl D, Unsicker SB, Verhulst N, Visser ME, Weldegergis BT, Köllner TG (2017): Covariation and phenotypic integration in chemical communication displays: biosynthetic constraints and eco-evolutionary implications. New Phytologist doi: 10.1111/nph.14505

Kleeberg I, Menzel F and Foitzik S. 2017. The influence of slavemaking lifestyle, caste and sex on chemical profiles in Temnothorax ants: Insights into the evolution of cuticular hydrocarbons. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 284: 20162249.

Menzel F, Blaimer BB and Schmitt T. 2017. How do cuticular hydrocarbons evolve? Physiological and climatic constraints on a complex functional trait in insects. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 284: 20161727.

Salas-Lopez A, Houadria M, Menzel F, Orivel J 2017. Ant-mediated ecosystem processes are driven by trophic community structure but mainly by the environment. Oecologia, 183: 249-261.

Menzel F, Radke R, Foitzik S. 2016. Odor diversity decreases with inbreeding in the ant Hypoponera opacior. Evolution, 70: 2573-2582.

Edenhofer S, Tomforde S, Fischer D, Hähner J, Menzel F, von Mammen S. 2017. Decentralised trust-management inspired by ant pheromones. International Journal of Mobile Network Design and Innovation, 7: 46-55.

Binz H, Kraft E, Entling M, Menzel F. 2016. Behavioral response of a generalist predator to chemotactile cues of two taxonomically distinct prey species. Chemoecology, 26:153–162.

Wüst M, Menzel F. 2016. I smell where you walked - how chemical cues influence movement decisions in ants. Oikos, 126: 149-160.

Ellwood MDF, Blüthgen N, Fayle T, Foster W, Menzel F (2016): Competition can lead to unexpected patterns in tropical ant communities. Acta Oecologica 75: 24-34

Leonhardt SD*, Menzel F*, Nehring V*, Schmitt T (2016): Ecology and evolution of communication in social insects. Cell 164: 1277-1287 (*all 3 authors contributed equally)

Houadria M, Blüthgen N, Salas-Lopez A, Schmitt MI, Arndt J, Schneider E, Orivel J, Menzel F (2016): The relation between circadian asynchrony, functional redundancy and trophic performance in tropical ant communities. Ecology 97: 225-235

Bucher R, Menzel F, Entling MH. (2015) Risk of spider predation alters food web structure and reduces local herbivory in the field. Oecologia.178:571-577

Houadria M, Salas-Lopez A, Orivel J, Blüthgen N, Menzel F (2015): Dietary and temporal niche differentiation in species-rich assemblages - can they explain local tropical ant coexistence? Biotropica 47: 208-217

Bucher R, Binz H, Menzel F & Entling MH (2014): Spider cues stimulate feeding, weight gain and survival of crickets. Ecological Entomology 39:667-673

Binz H, Foitzik S, Staab F, Menzel F (2014): The chemistry of competition: Exploitation of heterospecific cues depends on the dominance rank in the community. Animal Behaviour 94: 45-53

Menzel F, Kriesell H, Witte V (2014): Parabiotic ants: the costs and benefits of symbiosis. Ecological Entomology 39: 436-444.

Bucher R, Binz H, Menzel F & Entling MH (2014): Effects of spider chemotactile cues on arthropod behavior. Journal of Insect Behaviour 27: 567-580.

Menzel F, Orivel J, Kaltenpoth M, Schmitt T (2014): What makes you a potential partner? Insights from convergently evolved ant-ant symbioses. Chemoecology 24: 105-119.

Pamminger T, Foitzik S, Kaufmann KC, Schützler N, Menzel F (2014): Worker personality and its association with spatially structured division of labor. PLoS One 9: e79616

Binz H, Bucher R, Entling MH & Menzel F (2014): Knowing the risk: Crickets distinguish between spider predators of different size and commonness. Ethology 120: 99-110

Menzel F, Blüthgen N, Tolasch T, Conrad J, Beifuß U, Beuerle T, Schmitt T (2013): Crematoenones – a novel substance class exhibited by ants functions as appeasement signal. Frontiers in Zoology 10:32

Menzel F, Staab M, Chung AYC, Gebauer G, Blüthgen N (2012): Trophic ecology of parabiotic ants: Do the partners have similar food niches? Austral Ecology 37: 537-546

Menzel F, Schmitt T (2011): Tolerance requires the right smell: first evidence for interspecific selection on chemical recognition cues. Evolution 66-3: 896-904

Lang C, Menzel F (2011): Lasius niger ants discriminate aphids based on their cuticular hydrocarbons. Animal Behaviour 82: 1245-1254

Menzel F, Woywod M, Blüthgen N, Schmitt T (2010): Behavioural and chemical mechanisms behind a Mediterranean ant-ant association. Ecological Entomology 35: 711-720

Menzel F, Pokorny T, Blüthgen N, Schmitt T (2010): Trail-sharing among tropical ants: interspecific use of trail pheromones? Ecological Entomology 35: 495-503

Menzel F, Blüthgen N (2010): Parabiotic associations between tropical ants: equal partnership or parasitic exploitation? Journal of Animal Ecology 79: 71-81

Menzel F, Schmitt T, Blüthgen N (2009): Intraspecific nestmate recognition in two parabiotic ant species: acquired recognition cues and low inter-colony discrimination. Insectes Sociaux 56: 251-260

Menzel F, Blüthgen N, Schmitt T (2008): Tropical parabiotic ants: Highly unusual cuticular substances and low interspecific discrimination. Frontiers in Zoology 5: 16

Menzel F, Linsenmair KE, Blüthgen N (2008): Selective interspecific tolerance in tropical Crematogaster-Camponotus associations. Animal Behaviour 75: 837-846

Blüthgen N, Fründ J, Vázquez DP, Menzel F (2008): What do interaction network metrics tell us about specialization and biological traits? Ecology 89: 3387-3399

Blüthgen N, Menzel F, Hovestadt T, Fiala B, Blüthgen N (2007): Specialization, constraints, and conflicting interests in mutualistic networks. Current Biology 17: 341-346

Zhou P, Menzel F, Shaw J (2007): Systematics and population genetics of Sphagnum macrophyllum and S. cribrosum (Sphagnaceae). Systematic Botany 32: 493-503

Blüthgen N, Menzel F, Blüthgen N (2006): Measuring specialization in species interaction networks. BMC Ecology 6: 9

Beaulieu F, Walter DE, Proctor HC, Kitching RL & Menzel F (2006): Mesostigmatid mites (Acari: Mesostigmata) on rainforest tree trunks: arboreal specialists, but substrate generalists? Experimental and Applied Acarology 39: 25-40

Menzel F, Kitching RL, Boulter SL (2004): Host specificity or habitat structure? – The epicortical beetle assemblages in an Australian subtropical rainforest. European Journal of Entomology 101: 251-259

Menzel F (1999): Anatomie der Farnpflanzen: Artbestimmung und Evolution. Jahreshefte der Gesellschaft für Naturkunde Württemberg 155: 107-133

Menzel F (1999): Leitbündelevolution bei Farnen. Junge Wissenschaft 56: 34-39