Ecology of Multitrophic Interactions &  Biomimetism
Much research in evolutionary biology has been devoted to evolutionary novelties and trait acquisition. The reciprocal process of trait regression has received considerably less attention, even though phenotypic regression can also affect the evolutionary trajectories of lineages. Trait regression occurs when a phenotypic function is unused, such as eyes in cave-dwelling organisms, or when a phenotypic function is deleterious in a novel environment. A shift in environmental conditions can also lead to reversion of a degraded phenotype to its former state once it is favored by selection once more. The question is how trait regression affects trait dynamics and which conditions fuel phenotypic degradation and potential reversion.

Our current research focuses both on the regression and reversion of lipid synthesis in parasitoids. As larvae, parasitoids develop inside or on other arthropods, whereas the adult stage is free-living. The parasitic larval lifestyle likely facilitated parasitoids with the means to avert costly lipid synthesis by consuming or even increasing resources contained within their hosts, rendering their own lipid synthesis redundant and prone to regression (Visser & Ellers 2008).

Lack of lipogenesis predominates in parasitoids and has evolved concurrently with the parasitic lifestyle on three separate occasions in flies, beetles and wasps (Visser et al 2010). Some parasitoids do synthesize lipids, however, and this variation is not just observed between species, but also within populations of the same species. Such variability leaves us to question if lipogenesis is more labile in some parasitoid species compared to others.

Our aim is to elucidate how selection acts on lipogenic ability in parasitoids. Using a parasitoid species that shows intra-specific variability in lipid synthesis we will first determine which environmental conditions have fuelled regression and reversion of this trait. We will then force a switch in strategies to reveal how fast evolutionary trait transitions can take place.
Affiliation and professional preparation

2013 – present   Postdoctoral fellow at Tours Univ, F
2012                    Postdoctoral associate at the Univ of Florida, USA
2011-2012          Postdoctoral associate at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology, NL
2007-2011          PhD student at VU Univ Amsterdam, NL
2005-2007         Graduate student at Leiden Univ, NL
2002-2005         Undergraduate student at Leiden Univ, NL

Personal webpage :

Phenotypic trait regression and reversion

Bertanne Visser Mail:

Institut de Recherche sur la Biologie de l'Insecte

UMR 7261 Faculté des Sciences et Techniques

Avenue Monge, Parc Grandmont  

37200 TOURS (France)


Le Lann C, Visser B, Mériaux M, Moiroux J, van Baaren J, van Alphen JJM & Ellers J. 2013. Rising temperature reduces divergence in resource use strategies in coexisting parasitoid species. Oecologia Online early DOI 10.1007/s00442-013-2810-9.

Visser B, Le Lann C, Snaas H, Hardy ICW & Harvey JA. 2013. Consequences of resource competition for sex allocation and discriminative behaviors in a hyperparsitoid wasp. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology Online early DOI 10.1007/s00265-013-1627-1

Harvey JA,
Visser B, Le Lann C, de Boer J, Ellers J & Gols R. 2013. Convergence and divergence in direct and indirect life-history traits of closely related parasitoids (Braconidae: Microgastrinae). Evolutionary Biology Online early DOI 10.1007/s11692-013-9253-4

Visser B, van Dooremalen C, Vázquez Ruiz A & Ellers J. 2013. Fatty acid composition remains stable across trophic levels in a gall wasp community. Physiological Entomology Online early DOI: 10.1111/phen.1203

van der Sluijs I, Dijkstra PD, Lindeyer CM,
Visser B, Smith AM, Groothuis, TGG, van Alphen JJM & Seehausen O. 2013. A test of genetic association among male nuptial coloration, female mating preference, and male aggression bias within a polymorphic population of cichlid fish. Current Zoology 59: 221-229.

Visser B, Roelofs D, Hahn DA, Teal PEA, Mariën J & Ellers J. 2012. Transcriptional changes associated with lack of lipid synthesis in parasitoids. Genome Biology and Evolution 4: 752-762.

Ellers J, Kiers ET, Currie CR, McDonald BR &
Visser B. 2012. Ecological interactions drive evolutionary loss of traits. Ecology Letters 15: 1071-1082.

Harvey JA, Cloutier J,
Visser B, Ellers J, Wäckers FL & Gols R. 2012. The effect of different dietary sugars and honey on longevity and fecundity in two hyperparasitoid wasps. Journal of Insect Physiology 58: 816-823.

Visser B & Ellers J. 2012. Effects of a lipid-rich diet on adult parasitoid income resources and survival. Biological Control 60: 119-122.  

Le Lann C,
Visser B, van Baaren J, Van Alphen JJM & Ellers J. 2012. Comparing resource exploitation and allocation of two closely related aphid parasitoids sharing the same host. Evolutionary Ecology 26: 79-94.

Ellers J, Ruhé B &
Visser B. 2011. Discriminating between energetic content and dietary composition as an explanation for caloric restriction effects. Journal of Insect Physiology 57: 1670-1676.

Visser B, Le Lann C, den Blanken FJ, Harvey JA, van Alphen JJM & Ellers J. 2010. Loss of lipid synthesis as an evolutionary consequence of a parasitic lifestyle. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 107: 8677-8682.

Visser B & Ellers J. 2008. Lack of lipogenesis in parasitoids: A review of physiological mechanisms and evolutionary implications. Journal of Insect Physiology 54: 1315-1322.

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