Thesis subject

Eco-Morphological Analysis of Wasp Ovipositors

Parasitic wasps probe into various substrates (e.g. fruits, wood, galls, plant stems) in search of hosts in which to lay their eggs. They perform this by using their ovipositors, long and thin probing and egg-laying structures, which show a variety of species dependent tip shapes.

The aim of this project is to link the morphology of the ovipositor tips to the characteristics of the substrates the wasps drill into. You will analyse the high-resolution 3D X-ray micro-tomograph dataset obtained at PSI, Switzerland. The data consists of scans of ovipositor tips belonging to various hymenopteran species (source: Naturalis museum collection, Leiden, Netherlands). The original scans need to be reconstructed using dedicated software (Mevislab or Seg3D), and the reconstructed data will be quantified using algorithms developed in Matlab or Python programming language.In addition, the morphological data needs to be linked to substrate characteristics (e.g. hardness and stiffness) that the wasps need to probe into. This data needs to be obtained from existing literature. The quantified data and substrate characteristics will be analysed using multivariate statistical methods for the eco-morphological analysis of the ovipositor tip shapes.

CT scanned ovipositors of wasps
CT scanned ovipositors of wasps

For questions or application (incl. CV and letter of motivation), please contact Sander Gussekloo.

Examiner: Prof. Dr. Ir. Johan L. van Leeuwen
Supervisors: Sander Gussekloo
Contact: Uros Cerkvenik (via contact form)
Begin date: 01/10/2019 (variable)
End date: 31/12/2222 (variable)
Credits: 12 or 36 ECTS (variable)
For: BSc or MSc Biology
Requirements: See thesis description
Used skills: Segmentation, Programming in Matlab/Python, Eco-Morphology, Multivariate Statistics