Is bigger always better?

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1. Summary

I am currently a second year PhD student in the Ecological Neuroscience lab at Macquarie University in Sydney. I study how miniaturisation (evolution of small body size) affects visual navigation behavior of ants.

Miniaturisation is common in ants. If smaller ants have to maintain bigger brains of their ancestors, they must eat a lot to satisfy higher metabolic needs of the neural tissue. Instead, they may evolve smaller brains. But it is not known how miniaturisation affects important behaviours like visual navigation that determine if central place foragers such as ants reach home or die.

For my thesis, I study Australian ants of varying sizes. My approach includes field behavioral observations with simple manipulations on ants navigating to their nest using video recordings. I am currently analyzing preliminary data from two different navigational behaviour experiments. I plan to use histology, brain histo-chemistry, scanning electron microscopy and 3D reconstruction to further study how miniaturisation affects ant brains. The results can tell us tell us about foraging ecology of the ants with different navigational abilities, evolution of miniaturisation, and their sensory ecology.

2. Additional Details

I am interested in science communication and outreach as well. More details can be found in my blog, website and podcast.



Podcast about questions (called Just questions):

One page doodle explaining my Phd thesis:


Itziar Irurzun Arana
about 2 years ago

Good question!

Lilly Brifman
about 1 year ago

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I am a PhD student at Macquarie University, Sydney.