Dr Karsten Schönrogge Microdon mutabilis Neuroterus baccharum & Mesopolobus parasitoid Andricus grossulariae - alien galls in the UK

Dr Karsten Schönrogge

Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
Maclean Building
Benson Lane
Crowmarsh Gifford
Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB
Tel: +44 (0)1491 838800
E-mail: Dr Karsten Schönrogge

Current work

My research focuses on mutualistic and parasite/parasitoid-host interactions, both mechanistically, i.e. cues and signalling and related behaviours, and in terms of impacts at population and community levels. Recent research areas included the ecology of social parasites of ant societies and their chemical and acoustic interactions, patterns in the recruitment of natural enemies to alien species, and more generally the determinants of community structure in parasitoid communities associated with cynipid galls on oaks.

Both the ant - social parasites and the tree – herbivore – parasitoid systems are focussed around keystone species and both have significant potential that shared co-evolutionary history has shaped species interactions we observe today. A recent focus of my work assesses how species interactions and their constrains affect the ability of individual species to adapt to a rapidly changing environment:

(I)  with the trees – herbivores – parasitoids we investigate the possible impact of “Climate Matching” for future plantations of forest trees where tree genotypes of resident species are exposed today to climates expected in 50 – 100 years in the UK would be imported for new plantations. So called provenance trials simulate that situation and with collaborators at INRA, France we use the largest ones available to study the impact of the imported genotypes on local herbivore communities and their associated parasitoids.

(II) Maculinea butterflies have been shown to be accurate indicators of environmental change in less conspicuous invertebrate taxa, including functionally important keystone insects such as ants. In theory, ensembles of closely interacting species are most vulnerable to change as survival depends on the persistence of multiple group members: thus in practice, the greatest recorded declines among butterflies were by the many species that also depend on ants (myrmecophiles). As part of a European consortium we aim to measure the combined impacts of human-induced changes in climate and habitat (area, isolation, patch quality) on some of Europe’s most specialised and threatened grassland insects that depend on ants (myrmecophiles) by studying their local adaptations, changing niches and different needs across a gradient of local climates from the Mediterranean (lat 42o) to the North/Baltic seas (lat 55o). We will predict the impacts of future scenarios of land-use, climate and socio-economic change in different regions using population models that reflect the species adaptations and constrains. We will make new model predictions about how to mitigate the harmful impacts of multiple drivers on biodiversity, and we will test our recommendations using existing large scale habitat manipulations. Finally, we will draw general conclusions about the changing needs of myrmecophiles (c.100,000 spp globally) and of non myrmecophilous butterflies, in the latter case through comparing our model predictions with patterns of recorded change in all (UK) or representative (European) species across the climatic gradient, using national and European time series and atlas datasets available to the consortium.

Ongoing studies of inter-species communication and other life history traits among tightly linked hosts and social parasites reveal direct links to selection on patterns of host specificity at different spatial scales, dispersal, population-structure. Apart from fundamental insights in the potential and sophistication of intra- and interspecific communication, the understanding of these links inform for instance conservation efforts for social parasites such as Maculinea butterflies and Microdon hoverflies.

In the tree – herbivore – parasitoid systems we find less tightly linked interactions and use web- or network based capture both direct and indirect interactions. These have been used for instance to assess the impact of alien herbivorous insects in the UK via shared natural enemies. In recent times it has become apparent that some of the diversity at both the host and parasitoid levels is cryptic, i.e. species can not be distinguished morphologically. In collaboration with the Stone-Group, studying both phylogeny and phylogeography of the species involved allows the development of the molecular tools to accurately quantify the diversity in our study system, while learning how species, and possibly communities, have moved on continental and global scales over hundred thousands and millions of years.

Research Interests

  • Species adapting to climate change
  • Chemical and acoustic signalling among social parasites and their hosts and its evolutionary and ecological implications
  • The impact of genotypic / phenotypic variation in oak trees on associated communities, e.g. herbivorous insects and their natural enemies
  • Adaptation strategies to climate change in forestry
  • The recruitment of natural enemies of alien species of herbivorous insects

Awards and projects

  • 2009 - NERC EHFI CLIMAFO: Climate change and management of forest biodiversity: predicting the impacts of climate matching strategies on plantherbivore- enemy interactions.
  • 2009 - EU BiodivERsA CLIMIT: CLimate change impacts on Insects and their MITigation
  • 2007 - PhD studentship shared with G Stone (Edinburgh University) and S Cavers (CEH Edinburgh) to study the response of local insect herbivore communities to exotic genotypes of host plants.
  • 2004 – 2007 Standard: with G Stone & S Nee  (Edinburgh University) (NERC NE/B504406/1) : Host associated population substructure in generalist parasitoids in cynipid oak gall communities as a model system.
  • 2003 – 2007 PhD studentship shared with G Stone (Edinburgh University): Spatial and temporal dynamics in the development of invading cynipid communities in Britain.
  • 2002 – 2006 EU FP V project MacMan: Maculinea Butterflies of the Habitats Directive and European Red List as Indicators and Tools for Habitat Conservation and Management.
  • 2002 – 2006 PhD studentship shared with J Bullock (CEH Wallingford) and M Fenner (Southampton University): The costs and benefits of a mutualism: ant aided seed dispersal in Ulex.
  • 2001 Small grant: Gall-parasitoid interactions via gall volatile emissions (NERC NER/B/S/2000/00658).
  • 2001 – 2003 Standard: with G Stone (Edinburgh University) and J Cook (Reading University) (NERC GR/12847).  Phylogenetic analyses of community structure: oak gallwasps as a model system.
  • 1999 – 2002 Ecological consequences of chemical and behavioural mimicry of ants, and its application to the conservation of biodiversity (NERC Standard GR3/12662; PIs: JA Thomas, GW Elmes from CEH, JJ Knapp Southampton University, JA Pickett Rothamsted Research).

Selected publications

See also the NERC Open Research Archive.

Plant – herbivore – parasitoid community ecology

Stone GN, Lohse K, Nicholls JA, Fuentes-Utrilla P, Sinclair F, Schönrogge K, Csóka G, Melika G, Nieves-Aldrey J-L, Pujade-Villar J, Tavakoli M, Askew RR, Hickerson MJ (2012) Reconstructing Community Assembly in Time and Space Reveals Enemy Escape in a Western Palearctic Insect Community. Current Biology 22:532-537.

Schönrogge K, Begg T, Williams R, Melika G, Randle Z, Stone GN (2012) Range expansion and enemy recruitment by eight alien gall wasp species in Britain. Insect Conservation and Diversity:DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-4598.2011.00161.x

Roy, H.E., Lawson-Handley, L., Schönrogge, K., Poland, R.L., Purse, B.V. (2011) Can the enemy release hypothesis explain the success of invasive predators and parasitoids? BioControl 56, 451 - 468

Gibbs, M., Schönrogge, K., Alma, A. Melika, G. Ambra, Q. Stone, G.N., Aebi, A. (2011) Torymus sinensis: a viable management option for the biological control of Dryocosmus kuriphilus in Europe? BioControl 56, 527 - 538

Ács, Z., Challis, R., Bihari, P., Blaxter, M., Hayward, A., Melika, G., Pénzes, Z., Juli Pujade-Villar, J., Nieves-Aldrey, J.-L., Schönrogge, K. & Stone, G.N. (2010). Phylogeny and DNA Barcoding of Inquiline Oak Gallwasps (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) of the Western Palaearctic. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 55, 210 – 225

Nicholls, J.A., Preuss, S., Hayward, A., Melika, G., Csóka, G., Nieves-Aldrey, J.-L., Askew, R.R., Tavakoli, M., Schönrogge, K. & Stone, G.N. (2010) Concordant phylogeography and cryptic speciation in two Western Palaearctic oak gall parasitoid species complexes. Molecular Ecology 19, 592 – 609

Bailey, R., Schönrogge, K. Cook, J.M., Melika, G., Csóka, G., Turocy, C.,Stone, G.N. (2009) Host niches and defensive extended phenotypes structure parasitoid wasp communities. PLoS Biology, 7(8): e1000179. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000179

Stone, N.G., Challis, R.J., Atkinson, R.J., Csoka, G., Hayward, A., Melika, G., Mutun, S., Preuss, S., Rokas, A., Sadeghi, E., & Schönrogge, K. (2007) The phylogeographic clade trade: Tracing the impact of human-mediated dispersal on the colonization of northern Europe by the oak gallwasp Andricus kollari. Molecular Ecology 16, 2768 - 2781

Stone, G.N., Schönrogge, K. (2003). The adaptive significance of insect gall morphology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 18, 512 – 522.

Stone, G.N., Schönrogge, K., Atkinson, R., Bellido, D., Pujade-Villar, J. (2002). The population biology of oak gallwasps (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae). Annual Review of Entomology 47, 633 - 668

Schönrogge, K. & Crawley, M.J. (2000) Quantified webs as means of assessing the impact of alien insects. Journal of Animal Ecology 69, 841 – 868.

Schönrogge, K., Harper, L.J. and Lichtenstein, C.P. (2000). The protein content of tissues in cynipid galls (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae): Similarities between cynipid galls and seeds. Plant, Cell & Environment 23, 215 – 222.

Social parasites (myrmecophiles)

Hovestadt T., Thomas J.A., Mitesser O., Elmes G.W., Schönrogge K. (2012) Unexpected benefit of a social parasite for a key fitness component of its ant host. The American Naturalist 179, 110-123

Settele, J., Barbero, F., Musche, M., Thomas, J.A. & Schönrogge, K. (2011) Singing the blues: from experimental biology to conservation application. Journal of Experimental Biology 214, 1407-1401

Bonelli, S. Witek, M. Canterino, S. Sielezniew, M. Stankiewicz, A. Tratally, A. Baletto, E., Schönrogge, K. (2011) Distribution, host specificity and the potential for cryptic speciation in hoverfly Microdon myrmicae (Diptera: Syrphidae), a social parasite of Myrmica ants, Ecological Entomology 36, 135-143

Witek, M., Nowicki, P,  Śliwińska, E.B., Skórka, P.,  Settele, J., Schönrogge, K., Woyciechowski, M. (2010) Local host ant specificity in a metapopulation of Maculinea teleius butterfly, a obligatory social parasite of Myrmica ants. Ecological Entomology 35, 557 564

Barbero, F., Thomas, J.A., Bonelli, S., Baletto, E. & Schönrogge, K. (2009) Queen ants make distinctive sounds that are mimicked by a butterfly social parasite. Science 323, 782 - 785

Schönrogge, K., Napper, E.K.V., Birkett, M.A, Woodcock, C.M., Pickett, J.A. & Thomas, J.A. (2008) Host recognition by the specialist hoverfly Microdon mutabilis, a social parasite of the ant Formica lemani. Journal of Chemical Ecology 34, 168-178

Gardner, M.G., Schönrogge, K., Elmes, G.W. & Thomas, J.A. (2007) Increased genetic diversity as a defence against parasites is undermined by social parasites: Microdon mutabilis hoverflies infesting Formica lemani ant colonies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 274, 103 - 110.

K. Schönrogge, M.G. Gardner, G.W. Elmes, E.K.V. Napper, D.J. Simcox, J.C. Wardlaw, J. Breen, B. Barr, J.J. Knapp, J.A. Pickett, J.A. Thomas (2006) Host propagation permits extreme local adaptation in a social parasite of ants. Ecology Letters 9, 1032 – 1040

Schönrogge, K., Wardlaw, J.C., Thomas, J.A., and Elmes, G.W. (2000). Polymorphic growth rates in myrmecophilous insects. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 267, 1 - 7

Ant-aided seed dispersal

Gammans, N., Bullock, J.M., Gibbons, H. & Schönrogge, K. (2006) Reaction of mutualistic and granivorous ants to Ulex elaiosome chemicals. Journal of Chemical Ecology 32, 1935-1947

Gammans, N., Bullock, J.M., & Schönrogge, K. (2005) Ant benefits in a seed dispersal mutualism. Oecologia, 146, 43 - 49

Links to collaborators

Rémy J. Petit, Antoine Kremer, Alexis Ducousso: INRA, Pierroton

Dr Graham Stone: University of Edinburgh

Professor James Cook: University of Reading

Professor Jeremy Thomas: University of Oxford            

Professor Josef Settele: Umweltforschungszentrum Leipzig-Halle

Professor Emilio Balletto, Simona Bonelli, Dr Francesca Barbero: University of Turin