Aldo de la Mora: Social Parasitism Across a Latitudinal Gradient
delamora-01
De la Mora looking for social parasites in Michoacan.

Aldo de la Mora was awarded a 2018 UC MEXUS-CONACYT Postdoctoral Fellowship for his project “Social Parasitism Across a Latitudinal Gradient: Environmental and Genetic Drivers” at UC Riverside. During his postdoctoral stay, de la Mora will be working under the mentorship of Professor Jessica Purcell whose lab explores the functional consequences of social variation among arthropods and has developed an extensive database on the genomics of social insects.

delamora-01
De la Mora looking for social parasites at the UC Riverside Botanic Gardens

Through his previous work on coffee agro-ecosystems, de la Mora noticed the prevalence of social parasites and became increasingly interested in their geographic distribution. Currently, he is researching the distribution of social parasitism in the ant genus Formica across a latitudinal gradient in Mexico, incorporating previous data collected from California to Alaska by Purcell. He is hopeful that adding the Mexico data will contribute to a better understanding of how the Formica species and their social parasites vary along the full latitudinal range.

Additionally, and in conjunction with Professor Purcell and Assistant Professor of Entomology Erin Wilson Rankin, de la Mora is studying the evolutionary transition of the yellowjacket wasp (Vespula pensylvanica) from single queen colonies present in their native range (the continental U.S.), to multiple queen colonies found where the species is considered invasive (e.g. in Hawaii).

Given how little is known about social parasitism in Mexico—for example, its frequency in the tropics and subtropics—de la Mora’s work may provide potentially valuable information about social parasites, their ecological role and how their distribution varies along environmental gradients. From an applied point of view, understanding strategies of social insects that are ecologically important may contribute to better protection of native social insects that provide valuable ecosystem services (e.g. Formica ants) and control damaging invasive pests (e.g. Vespula wasps).

Dr. de la Mora is interested in creating new collaborations with researchers and students and building research networks between Mexican and US institutions. For those interested in collaboration or visiting the Purcell Lab (https://purcelllab.ucr.edu), please email him at aldod@ucr.edu.

delamora-03
De la Mora studying evolutionary transition in social insects.