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Thomas Parmentier

Since I was a little kid, the natural world has always been my playground. But it was the tiny universe of insects that truly captivated me, especially those of ant colonies. I used to spend hours watching ant colonies, fascinated by their battles, their interactions with aphids and I strived to build my own miniature colonies. When I stumbled upon "the Ants," the ant bible, as an undergraduate student a new level of passion for these creatures was ignited. Utlitmately that passion led me to a PhD focused on arthropods living in ant microcosms.

Even though most people think that I focus on studying ants, my actual emphasis lies in exploring the intricate ecology of arthropods inhabiting and surrounding ant nests. These fascinating organisms are known as ant guests or myrmecophiles. Due to their hidden existence inside ant nests, there is limited information on their biology. Surprisingly, these myrmecophiles are far more abundant than one might expect.

Even in densely populated and heavily urbanized regions like Flanders where I live and do most sampling, there's a wealth of remarkable myrmecophiles hidden underground. It's fascinating how these intricate organisms thrive in unexpected places!

In my PhD research (joint affiliation KuLeuven and RBINS, T. Wenseleers and W. Dekoninck, defended Sept 2016), I explored the strategies that myrmecophiles employ to thrive in hostile ant nests. I launched an independent research line and tailored the available tools in chemical ecology and behavior to my system, but also integrated new techniques. As a model system, I mainly focused on the community of myrmecophiles associated with mound building red wood ants (Formica rufa group). I was able to disentangle the highly different chemical, behavioral and trophic strategies used in the wood ant community.

My postdoctoral research (Kuleuven, Ugent and UNamur) marked a transition from a focus on behavioral and chemical ecology (interactions between the myrmecophiles and the ant host) to a community ecology perspective in myrmecophiles. Ant associates form small and spatially delineated communities that strongly interact with their ant host, but I showed in different works that they also interact with co-habiting symbionts through competition, predation and dispersal. As such, these communities house realistic species assemblages comprising different trophic levels and functional groups (predators, scavengers, detritivores). In recent work, I could clearly demonstrate that these local communities are connected through dispersal (“metacommunities”). Moreover, I was able to show that functional groups in the community have different emigration rates resulting in different colonization dynamics. Communities also undergo succession patterns with more specialized and more even communities in older nests. I aim to leverage myrmecophile communities as true terrestrial microcosms to explore various hypotheses in community ecology. Looking ahead, I aim to take it a step further by utilizing these communities as microcosms to examine the broader impacts of human-induced stress on entire ecological communities.

Aside from my fascination with ants and ecology in general, my interests encompass a broad range. I'm intrigued by history, environmental issues, sports and politics too.



  • October 2022 - present

  • Postdoctoral Research Scientist (FWO)

  • Universiteit Gent , Belgium

  • Functioning of natural communities using arthropod communities living in ant nests as model systems

  • PI: Prof. Dries Bonte

  • October 2020 - September 2022

  • Postdoctoral Research Scientist (FNRS)

  • Université de Namur, Belgium

  • theoretical ecology, focusing on stability of natural arthropod networks

  • PI: Prof. Frederik De Laender

  • October 2017 - September 2020

  • Postdoctoral Research Scientist (BOF - FWO)

  • Universiteit Gent , Belgium

  • dynamics of natural food webs in space and time using arthropods communities in ant nests

  • PI: Prof. Dries Bonte

  • October 2016 - September 2017

  • Postdoctoral Research Scientist (PDM)

  • KU Leuven , Belgium

  • The evolutionary ecology of interspecific signalling: the ant-aphid mutualism as a model system

  • PI: Prof. Tom Wenseleers

  • April 2012 - September 2016

  • PhD (FWO)

  • joint affilation KU Leuven and Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences

  • Conflict and cooperation between ants and ant-associated arthropods

  • promotors: Prof. Tom Wenseleers and Dr. Wouter Dekoninck

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