Lehrstuhl für Tierökologie und Tropenbiologie


Mehdi Khadraoui

PhD candidate

Telephone: +49 (0)931 31-86682
e-Mail: mehdi.khadraoui@uni-wuerzburg.de

ORCID ID: 0000-0003-1284-3972
Scopus ID: 57201300857
Research Gate

Insect-Fungus Interactions Research Group

Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology
University of Würzburg
Am Hubland
97074 Würzburg

I am broadly interested in the evolution and ecology of social behaviours. Why do some species show extremely complex social behaviours, while others are invariably solitary? What can explain inter- and intraspecific variation in sociality? I find these questions fascinating.
In my master's, I studied various forms of social behaviours in vertebrates (aggression, parental care, cooperative breeding). In my PhD, I take a wider perspective and investigate the evolution of sociality in fungus-farming beetles (Scolytinae).

One of my main goals as a researcher is to be able to efficiently communicate my results within the scientific community, but also to the general public. Therefore, I am a strong advocate of open access science and research transparency.

Other research interests include: sexual selection and mate choice, evolution of antibiotic resistance, cancer evolution, brood parasitism, evolution of mutualism, experimental evolution.

The onset of parental behaviours in four Peromyscus mouse species with different mating systems

Biparental care is fairly rare in mammals. However, it evolved at least twice independently in the wild mouse genus Peromyscus. Based at Harvard University, this project aims at comparing the onset of parental behaviours in two promiscuous and two monogamous species in this genus. I monitored the parental behaviours of individual mice over four life stages in the lab, and linked my results with their mating systems, territoriality and dispersal patterns in the wild.

The evolution of sociality in Coleoptera

Beetles (order Coleoptera) make up 25% of all animal species. This impressive diversity is also reflective of their social behaviours: from solitary to eusocial beetles, through socially parasitic and group farming. They have it all! The goal of this project is to review the current literature on beetle sociality to understand the ecological drivers of social behaviours in this prolific insect order.

Chemical communication and kin recognition in Xyleborinus saxesenii

Social insects often make use of cuticular hydrocarbons (CHCs) to communicate. X. saxesenii is a widely distributed ambrosia beetle that lives in galleries dug in dead wood. They are also facultatively eusocial: one reproductive female, her few sons and all her worker daughters live together and cooperatively take care of their crop. As of today, nothing is known about the chemical communication that mediates social interactions in ambrosia beetles. The goal of this project is to investigate the CHC composition of this species and compare it between nests, within nests, but also to other closely related species.

Ecological correlates of sociality in Xyleborinus saxesenii

Ecological conditions play a major role in the evolution of social behaviours. In this large scale study, I plan on collecting ambrosia beetles in several forest types at different elevations and latitudes in Europe (and maybe North America) and rear them for one generation in the same lab conditions. I will then assess the extent of their social behaviours and compare different populations based on the ecological conditions they were selected under.

Experimental evolution of sociality and dispersal in Xyleborinus saxesenii

Philopatry and sociality are theoretically linked: in order to develop a complex social system with relatives, one's offspring have to remain in their natal territory for an extended period of time. Can sociality be selected? In this experiment, I will select two strains of the facultatively eusocial Xyleborinus saxesenii from wild-caught populations over several generations: (1) early dispersers, expected to display limited social behaviours and (2) late dispersers, expected to be strongly cooperative. 

2018-2022 - PhD in Evolutionary Biology - Graduate School of Life Sciences
Julius-Maximilians University of Würzburg

Diversity, ecology and evolution of sociality in ambrosia beetles
Supervised by Peter Biedermann

2015-2017 - MSc Erasmus Mundus in Evolutionary Biology (MEME)

Research-based international master's program

Master's project: Plumage color manipulation has no effect on social dominance in male and female zebra finches
Supervised by Wolfgang Forstmeier and Bart Kempenaers
Max Planck Institute for Ornithology

Master's thesis 1: The onset of parental behaviours is reflective of mating system, territoriality and dispersal in four Peromyscus mouse species
Supervised by Andres Bendesky and Hopi Hoekstra
Harvard University

Master's thesis 2: Environmental and genetic components of variation in body size in a cooperative breeder, the purple-crowned fairy-wren
Supervised by Anne Peters and Kaspar Delhey
Monash University

2011-2014 - BSc in Biology
University of Lausanne and University of British Columbia

Bachelor's thesis: The influence of environmental cues and anthropogenic activity on roost departure times in the Northwestern Crow (Corvus caurinus)
Supervised by David Toews and Darren Irwin
University of British Columbia


Wang, D., Forstmeier, W., Ihle, M., Khadraoui, M., Jerónimo, S., Martin, K., and Kempenaers, B. (2018). Irreproducible text-book “knowledge”: the effects of color bands on zebra finch fitness. Evolution 72(4): 961-976.

Jerónimo, S., Khadraoui, M., Wang, D., Martin, K., Lesku, J., Robert, K., Schlicht, E., Forstmeier, W., and Kempenaers, B. (2018). Plumage colour manipulation has no effect on social dominance or fitness in zebra finches. Behav Ecol 29(2): 459-467.

Khadraoui, M., and Toews, D. P. L. (2015).The influence of environmental cues and anthropogenic activity on roost departure times in the Northwestern Crow (Corvus caurinus). Wilson J Orn 127(4): 739-746.