Biodiversity Conservation, Butterfly Biology, Host Parasite Interaction, Sustainability
Since 2000, Simona Bonelli has been working at the Department of Life Sciences and Systems Biology as a coordinator of the Zoological Laboratory (ZooLab). She is now Associate Professor of Zoology.
During the last 15 years, SB has investigated the biology, ecology and conservation of lepidoptera, with particular emphasis on consequences of habitat fragmentation and environmental changes. Ecological and behavioural adaptations of oviposition strategies, habitat selection and dispersal have been studied in threatened species, and contrasted to those observed in invasive species (ex. Cacyreus marshalli), in the attempt to develop management plans compatible with the sustainable development of semi-natural areas. ZooLab has been advisors to the Ministry of the Environment for building the check list (Balletto, Cassulo, Bonelli, 2014 - Zootaxa 3853 (1): 001–114), the territorial database (CKMAP) and the first Red List of Italian Butterflies (www.iucn.it/liste-rosse-italiane.php). As Italian representative of Butterfly Conservation Europe (www.bc-europe.eu), SB contributed to the atlas of Prime Butterfly Areas in Europe (Van Swaay et al. 2003), to the Red List of European Butterflies (Van Swaay et al. 2010) and to the Red Data Book of Butterflies of the Mediterranean biogeographical area (Numa et al 2016). In 2014 SB co-operated with the Ministry of the Environment in assessing the status of Italian Lepidoptera (www.isprambiente.gov.it) under Art.17 EU-43/92/CEE. SB is Ministry experts (Mipaaf) for drafting guidelines for the sustainable use of phyto-pharmaceuticals within areas of the NATURA-2000 network. ZooLab is planner and founding member of the programme www.barcodingitalianbutterflies.eu.
Host - parasite communication
Around 10,000 invertebrate species live as social parasites of ants and have evolved many adaptive mechanisms allowing them to penetrate and integrate into ants’ nests. Working on model organisms such as lepidoptera, coleoptera and diptera, ZooLab investigates the structural and functional strategies enacted by social parasites to intercept and manipulate their host’s communication system. More in particular, we study the interexchange of chemical and acoustic signals between hosts and parasites. In the Maculinea rebeli/Myrmica schencki system, we discovered the first case of acoustic mimicry in a social parasite (Barbero et al. 2009 - Science, 323: 782-785). The larvae and pupae of the parasite (Maculinea)mimic sounds emitted by the queen ants and thereby manage, not only to integrate, but to gain very high social rank within the ant colony. We also recently demonstrated that ants use sounds for inter-caste communication (Casacci et al. 2013 - Curr. Biol. 23 (4): 323-327).