Some of our publications made the cover of the Proceedings Royal Society London and of Ecology Letters


Muller D, Elias B, Collard L, Pels C, Holveck MJ & Nieberding CM. Visual and chemical secondary sexual wing traits of across seasonal forms in the polyphenic butterfly Bicyclus anynana: how different are intermediate forms? PLoS ONE
14(11):e0225003. PDF

We characterize two male secondary sexual traits in individuals that emerge during the seasonal transition in the wild and called “intermediate”.

Dion E, Monteiro A, & Nieberding CM. The role of learning on insect and spider sexual behaviors, sexual trait evolution and speciation. Invited review in Frontiers Ecology and Evolution 6:225. PDF

We show that most insects studied to date show extensive learning ability to choose among available mating partners, and this can affect the evolution of sexual traits, of mating preferences and affect speciation. This is a change of paradigm that occurred within the last decade: insects are not miniature robots that behave only based on their “instinct”.


Nieberding CM, San Martin G, Saenko S, Allen CE, Brakefield PM & Visser B. Sexual selection contributes to partial restoration of phenotypic robustness in a butterfly. Scientific reports 8:14315. PDF

This is the first evidence that phenotypes of individuals forming a species remain sufficiently similar to define a “species” thanks to the expression of sexual preferences in females.

Visser B, Dublon I, Heuskin S, Laval F, Bacquet PM, Lognay G & Nieberding CM. Common practice tissue extraction in solvent does not reflect actual emission of a sex pheromone during courtship in a butterfly. Frontiers Ecology and Evolution 6: 154. PDF

A problematic finding : using the usual method to quantify chemicals forming, for example, the sex pheromone of insects leads to a very different picture than what individuals actually smell from each other emissions. Thus, liquid extractions of chemical from insect tissue should be taken with a pinch of salt.

Visser B, Hance T, Noël C, Pels C, Kimura MT, Stökl J, Geuverink E & Nieberding CM.Variation in lipid synthesis, but genetic homogeneity, among Leptopilina parasitic wasp populations. Ecology and Evolution 8:7355–7364. PDF

These insects have the amazing property to survive despite their inability to produce lipids, the energy storage system common to all living organisms. We start unravelling how this is possible here. Curious? Check out Visser et al submitted manuscript to PCI Evol Biol.

Nieberding CM, Van Dyck H & Chittka L. Adaptive learning in non-social insects: from theory to field work, and back. Invited review in Current Opinion in Insect Science 27: 75-81. PDF.

A change of paradigm occurred in the last decade: insects are not miniature robots that behave only based on their “instinct”.Most insects studied to date show extensive learning ability and we focus on field-based evidence to track the adaptive value of learning in nature. Curious ? Check out our other review in learning ability of insects in relation to sex in Dion et al (2019) Frontiers Ecol Evol.

Nieberding CM & Visser B. Incestuous insects in nature despite occasional fitness costs. Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.24072/pci.evolbiol.100047. PDF

We support this amazing initiative of Peer Community In that provides excellent peer review, free of cost and open access top quality science for a better access of knwoledge worldwide.

Nieberding CM & Holveck MJ. Unnatural experimental conditions inflate the importance of male courtship activity on mating success in a butterfly. Commentary on Kehl et al.“Young male mating success is associated with sperm number but not with male sex pheromone titres”. Frontiers in Zoology 15:18. PDF.

Our key message is here is to provide the experimental conditions to let female sexual preferences be expressed in the model butterfly B. anynana and avoid to quantify rape instead.


Nieberding CM & van Alphen JM. Culture in Bumblebees. Peer Community in Evolutionary Biology. doi: 10.24072/pci.evolbiol.100001. PDF

We support this amazing initiative of Peer Community In that provides excellent peer review, free of cost and open access top quality science for a better access of knwoledge worldwide.

Nieberding CM & Holveck MJ. Laboratory social environment biases mating outcome: a first quantitative synthesis in a butterfly. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 71: 117. PDF.

Our key finding here is: if you wish to quantify female sexual preference, better is to design experimental conditions to let it be expressed. Otherwise, this is called rape.Check also Holveck et al (2015) An Beh from our lab to know more.


Bacquet PMB, De Jong M, Brattström O, Wang HL, Molleman F, Heuskin S, Lognay G, Löfstedt C,  Brakefield PM, Vanderpoorten A & Nieberding CM. Differentiation in putative male sex pheromone components across and within populations of the African butterfly Bicyclus anynana as a potential driver of reproductive isolation. Ecology and Evolution: 6064-6084. PDF.

Chemicals on male wings in field-caught African populations of butterflies diverge before genetic divergence in some of these populations. Thus sex pheromone communication could initiate speciation. Check out Bacquet et al (2015) PRSL from our lab for more information.


Holveck MJ, Gauthier AL & Nieberding CM. Dense, small and male-biased cages exacerbate male–male competition and reduce female choosiness in Bicyclus anynana. Animal Behaviour 104: 229–245. PDF.

Our key finding here is: if you wish to quantify female sexual preference, better is to design experimental conditions to let it be expressed. Otherwise, this is called rape. Check out Nieberding and Holveck (2016) BES from our lab to know more.

Bacquet P, Brattström O, Wang H-L, Löfstedt C, Brakefield P & Nieberding CM. Selection on male sex pheromone composition drives butterfly reproductive isolation. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 282: 20142734. PDF.

This is the first large-scale evaluation of the role of sex pheromone communication in speciation using >30 field-caught species of African butterflies. Recently diverged butterly species, when speciating in sympatry, accumulate very rapidly different scents. Check out Bacquet et al (2016) Ecol Evol from our lab to know more.

Arun A, Baumlé V, Amelot G & Nieberding CM. Selection and validation of reference genes for qRT-PCR expression analysis of candidate genes involved in olfactory communication in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana. PLoS ONE 10(3): e0120401. PDF

This is the first time that real time quantitative PCR was developed in a butterfly. Hopefully a useful tool to the dynamic community of day butterfly molecular biologists.


Heuskin S, Vanderplanck M, Bacquet P, Holveck MJ, Kaltenpoch M, Engl T, Taverne C, Lognay G & Nieberding CM. The composition of cuticular compounds indicates body parts, sex and age in the model butterfly Bicyclus anynana (Lepidoptera). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 2:37. PDF.

This is the first time that the complete olfactory profile of a butterfly is screened and we characterized the body distribution of over 100 different chemical compounds. There is material for selection on chemical communication in butterflies.

Bitume E, Ronce O, Olivieri I, Bonte D & Nieberding CM. Dispersal distance is influenced by parental and grand-parental density. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 281: 20141061. PDF.

Dispersal is central to predict evolution in spatially and temporally variable environments, and we find that the environments of parents and grand-parents modify dispersal of offspring, using another pet species in our lab, a spider mite.


Van Bergen E, Brakefield PM, Heuskin S, Zwaan B & Nieberding CM. The scent of inbreeding: a male sex pheromone betrays inbred males. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 280 : 1471-2954. PDF

When females cannot smell males, they lose the ability to reject inbred -and degenerated- mating partners, suggesting that sex pheromone communication matters more to sexual selection than vision in this butterfly.

Bitume E, Olivieri I, Ronce O, Bonte D & Nieberding CM. Density and genetic relatedness increase dispersal distance in a sub-social organism. Ecology letters 16: 430-437. PDF

Dispersal is central to predict evolution in spatially and temporally variable environments, and we find that density and kinship in a population matter to predict how far individuals leave. This was known to matter to predict whether individuals leave or stay. How far individuals go affects their chances to find a suitable habitat in our increasingly fragmented and unnatural world.

Perez G, Libois R & Nieberding CM. Phylogeography of the European dormouse. Journal of Mammalogy 91(1): 233–242. PDF

Phylogeography allows putting the genetic structure of a species on map and reconstruct how populations diverged in the past. We use phylogeography to define the evolutionary history of animal species, in mammals as here, and in parasites, insects, …


Journal Le Monde March 17th, 2012
Journal Le Soir Feb 13th, 2012
Journal La Libre Feb 14th, 2012

Nieberding CM, Fischer K, Saastamoinen M, Allen C, Wallen E, Hedenström E & Brakefield PM. Cracking the olfactory code of a butterfly: the scent of ageing. Ecology Letters 15: 415–424. PDF

Females use the sex pheromone emitted by courting males to check their age. They also check their level of genetic diversity (see van Bergen et al (2013) PRSL). This publications was scored by Gabriele Sorci, a Member of the Faculty of 1000 (F1000), as a “must read” in the top 2% of published articles in biology and medicine in 2012.


Bitume EV, Bonte D, Magalhaes S, Van Dongen S, San Martin, G, Olivieri I & Nieberding CM. Heritability and artificial selection on ambulatory dispersal in Tetranychus urticae. PLoS ONE 6(10): e26927. PDF

Here we attempted, but failed, to get dispersal evolve, but we found out how natural selection affects dispersal. Check out Bitume et al (2013) Ecology Letters from our lab to know more.

San Martin G, Bacquet P & Nieberding CM. Mate choice and sexual selection in a model butterfly species, Bicyclus anynana: state of the art. Proc. Neth. Entomol. Soc. Meet. 22: 9-22. PDF

We summarize what was known until 2011 about male secondary sexual traits and female sexual preferences in this model butterfly. Now you need to add a large number of studies and male courtship activity as a fourth male trait under sexual selection.


Callejón R, de Rojas M, Nieberding CM, Foronda P, Feliú C, Guevara D & Cutillas C. Molecular evolution of Trichuris muris isolated from different Muridae hosts in Europe. Parasitology Research, 107: 631-641. PDF

Nieberding CM, Jousselin E & Desdevises Y. 2010. The use of co-phylogeographic patterns to predict the nature of interactions, and vice-versa. In: The geography of host-parasite interactions. S. Morand and B. Krasnov Eds, Oxford Univ. Press, 287 p. pp. 59-69. PDF


Nieberding CM, Schneider MV, de Vos H, Lassance JM, Estramil N, Andersson J, BångJ, Hedenström E,  Lofstedt C & Brakefield PM. Male sex pheromones in the butterfly Bicyclus anynana: towards an evolutionary analysis. PLoS ONE 3(7):e2751. PDF

We identified for the first butterfly to date (of which there are 18,000 species worldwide) the composition of the sex pheromone that males emit when courting females. We use a combination of behavioural and chemistry methods to validate that there are three active components, two of which are derived from fatty acids as in the moth ancestors of butterflies.

Nieberding CM, Durette-Desset MC, Libois R, Vanderpoorten A, Deffontaine V, Feliu C, Morand S & Michaux JR. Geography and host biogeography matter for understanding the phylogeography of a parasite. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 47: 538-554. PDF

A parasite needs to track its host to survive and this molds the genetic structure of parasites over millions of years. We showed how parasites can thus be used to track the evolutionary history of their hosts. Curious? Check out Nieberding and Olivieri (2007) in Trends Ecol Evol to know more.


Nieberding CM & Olivieri I. Parasites: proxies for host history and ecology? Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22: 156-165. PDF

We reviewed whether and under which ecological conditions parasites track the evolutionary history of their hosts. This is useful when the host displays little genetic structure itself (as humans in the pre-genomic era) or when hosts are endangered species. Working with Isabelle Olivieri was life changing, for the better.


Nieberding CM, Libois, Morand S & Michaux JR. 2006. Parasites and the insular syndrome: the colonisation of the western Mediterranean islands by Heligmosomoides polygyrus (Dujardin, 1845). Journal of Biogeography 33: 1212-1222. PDF

We showed for the first time that parasites too evolve aspects of the typical insular syndrome when isolated on islands.

Nieberding CM & Morand S. 2006. Comparative phylogeography: the use of parasites for insights into host history. In Micromammals and macroparasites: from evolutionary ecology to management. S. Morand, B. R. Krasnov and R. Poulin Eds, Springer Editions, 637 pages. pp. 277-293. PDF

Deffontaine V, Libois R,Kotlík P, Sommer R, Nieberding CM, Searle JB & Michaux JR. 2005. Beyond the Mediterranean Peninsulas: Evidence of Central European glacial refuges for a temperate forest mammal species, the bank vole (Clethrionomys glareolus). Molecular Ecology 14: 1727-1739. PDF

Nieberding CM, Libois R, Morand S, Douady C & Michaux JR. 2005. Phylogeography of a Nematode (Heligmosomoides polygyrus) in the Western Palearctic region: persistence of Northern cryptic populations during ice ages? Molecular Ecology 14: 765-777. PDF

We found multiple genetic lineages in a parasite, suggesting that it did not follow the evolutionary history of a single host rodent over the last millions years and may have survived on other hosts in the northern and eastern parts of Europe. It also suggests that some temperate species found suitable habitats in northern Europe when the climate was much colder then nowadays.

Nieberding CM, Morand S, Libois R & Michaux JR. 2004. A parasite reveals cryptic phylogeographic history of its host. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 271: 2559-2568. PDF

Here we provide the proof of concept that the genetic structure of a parasite can play the role of a biological magnifying glass to find out previously undetected genetic differentiation events of its host. Curious? Check out the review from our lab in Nieberding and Olivieri (2007) Trends Ecol Evol.

Michaux JR, Magnanou E,Paradis E, NieberdingCM & Libois R. 2003. Mitochondrial phylogeography of the woodmouse (Apodemus sylvaticus) in the western Palearctic region. Molecular Ecology 12: 685-693. PDF