1-year postdoc: « The role of bacteria in the production of social scent in birds »

Animal bodies house trillions of bacteria, which can influence host behavior in ways that have far-reaching implications for host ecology and evolution. Recent studies have revealed surprising roles for bacteria in shaping behaviors across many animal taxa. But questions remain and recent perspective papers have thus emphasized the need of studying the interaction between non-pathogenic bacteria and host behavior. In particular, bacteria can influence host behavior indirectly by affecting chemical cues that animals use to communicate. The fermentation hypothesis for animal olfactory signaling posits that bacteria metabolize glandular secretions and produce volatile, organic compounds, that are used in communication by the host. However, despite the potential importance of microbes in the olfactory communication of their host, very few studies have focused on the microbiota of animal scent integuments.

The main objective of the project is to inquire whether bacteria in scent integument may be responsible for the production of social odors in birds. However, the research objective is not set and may depend on the research interests of the successful candidate. Among others, it may involve i) testing the covariation between olfactory cues and bacterial communities in scent integuments, ii) combining chemical analyses with in-vitro cultures of the specific bacterial strains found in the scent integuments to determine to what extent bacteria produce the compounds used by birds to communicate with their conspecifics, or iii) testing the role of immune genes (known to affect bird odor) on bird microbiota.

A sound knowledge of chemical ecology and associated techniques (GC-MS) is essential. Previous experience in bacterial culture is not a pre-requisite, but some experience in laboratory work (DNA extraction, PCR, etc.) is particularly desirable. Some experience with next-generation sequencing data would be an asset.

This 1-year position is expected to start in September 2017. It will be based in Toulouse at « Laboratoire Evolution & Diversité Biologique » (CNRS). http://www.edb.ups-tlse.fr/

To apply, please send CV and statement of interest to Sarah Leclaire ([email protected]).

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