Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg


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Dr. Antonella Soro

Antonella Soro

Antonella Soro


B.Sc. Botany; M.Sc. Plant Ecology; D. Phil. Zoology

Current Position

Assistant Professor, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg

Professional Career

1990-1995 Biology at University of Milan

1995-1997 Masters in Plant Ecology, University of Uppsala, Sweden

1998-1999 Research Assistant in the Institute of Systematic Botany, University of Tübingen, Germany

2000-2002 Maternity leave

2003-2009 Ph.D. University of Tübingen, Germany

2009-2011 Postdoc on conservation genetics of Mexican pollinators, Queen’s University Belfast, UK

2012-present Wissenschaftliche Angestellte, Martin-Luther University Halle-Wittenberg


My research focuses on important questions in evolutionary biology (the evolution of sociality) and on specific problems in conservation genetics (impact of habitat fragmentation on populations). My studies are based on experimental and observational field-based research, often integrated with molecular genetic analyses, and encompass the organisation of life at the organismal, population and community levels.

The origin and maintenance of eusociality in social insects and related phenomena such as kin recognition and intra-colonial conflicts is my main research focus. Eusociality, emblematically known in colonies of ants, bees, wasps and termites where workers are partially or completely sterile, has been a central theme of evolutionary biology since Darwin recognized it as a special difficulty for its theory of evolution through natural selection. How can sterility confer reproductive success? Inclusive fitness theory, also known as kin selection theory, managed to resolve this conundrum by illustrating that altruism can more easily evolve if the altruist and the recipient of the altruistic act are genetically related. By the generation of falsifiable predictions that have been widely supported, kin selection provided answers to the ultimate question of how eusociality evolved. But the actual genetic and molecular changes (proximate causes) responsible for the transition to (and from) sociality are still largely unknown. Halictid bees (aka sweat bees) are particularly suited to study the social transition and the molecular basis of social behaviour because of their wide intra- and interspecific diversity of social lifestyles: some are solitary, some are eusocial, others, like communal species, show an intermediate complexity of social organization. I investigate a socially polymorphic halictid species, Halictus rubicundus, which is solitary in colder conditions and social in warmer ones. A central focus is the genes that influence social behaviour, which we endeavour to uncover by analysis of whether the same suite of genes is responsible for differences in social behaviour of this species across its range, what they do at the molecular level and how they are regulated.

Lasioglossum malachurum and Lasioglossum marginatum, both obligately eusocial sweat bees, are particularly interesting for the study of sociogenetic organization and nestmate recognition. The study of L. marginatum, the only perennial species of the halictid bee group, is also important for addressing questions such as colony size, queen control and intra-colonial queen-worker conflicts. We use the genomic tools of transcriptome sequencing and differential gene expression to investigate the molecular basis of these phenomena in these species, but also to strengthen a broader comparative approach that seeks common principles for the molecular basis of the evolution of eusociality across species.

I am also particularly interested on the conservation genetics of wild bees. I have investigated the population genetics of euglossine bees (Apidae) in Mexico to assess the importance of the effect of human activity (fragmentation, agriculture intensification) and intrinsic genetic factors (inbreeding) on the population genetics and dynamics of critical pollinators.


Kahnt B, Theodorou P, Soro A, Hollens-Kuhr H, Kuhlmann M, Pauw A, Paxton RJ (2018) Small and genetically highly structured populations in a long-legged bee, Rediviva longimanus, as inferred by pooled RAD-seq. BMC Evolutionary Biology 18, 196.

Theodorou P, Radzevičiūtė R, Kahnt B, Soro A, Grosse I, Paxton RJ (2018) Genome-wide single nucleotide polymorphism scan suggests adaptation to urbanization in an important pollinator, the red-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius L.). Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 285. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.2806

Soro A, Quezada-Euan JJG, Theodorou P, Moritz RFA, Paxton RJ (2017) The population genetics of two orchid bees suggests high dispersal, low diploid male production and only an effect of island isolation in lowering genetic diversity. Conservation Genetics 18, 607-619.

López-Uribe MM, Soro A, Jha S (2017) Conservation genetics of bees: advances in the application of molecular tools to guide bee pollinator conservation. Conservation Genetics 18, 501-506.

Friedel A, Paxton RJ, Soro A (2017) Spatial patterns of relatedness within nesting aggregations of the primitively eusocial sweat bee Lasioglossum malachurum. Insectes Sociaux. DOI: 10.1007/s00040-017-0559-6

Menger J, Henle K, Magnusson WE, Soro A, Husemann M, Schlegel M (2017) Genetic diversity and spatial structure of the Rufous-throated Antbird (Gymnopithys rufigula), an Amazonian obligate army-ant follower. Ecology and Evolution7, 2671-2684.

Kahnt B, Soro A, Kuhlmann M, Gerth M, Paxton RJ (2014) Insights into the biodiversity of the Succulent Karoo hotspot of South Africa: the population genetics of a rare and endemic halictid bee, Patellapis doleritica. Conservation Genetics 15, 1491-1502.

Boff S, Soro A, Paxton R, Alves-dos-Santos I (2014) Island isolation reduces genetic diversity and connectivity but does not significantly elevate diploid male production in a neotropical orchid bee. Conservation Genetics 15, 1123-1135.

Field J., Paxton R.J., Soro A, Craze P., Bridge C. (2012) Body size, demography and foraging in a socially plastic sweat bee: a common garden experiment. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology. DOI 10.1007/s00265-012-1322-7

Pérez-Balam J, Quezada-Euán JJG, Alfaro-Bates R, Medina S, McKendrick L, Soro A, Paxton RJ (2012) The contribution of honey bees, flies and wapsp to avocado (Persea americana) pollination in southern Mexico. Journal of Pollination Ecology 8, 42-47.

Soro A., Ayasse M., Zobel M.U., Paxton R.J. (2011) Kin discriminators in the eusocial sweat bee Lasioglossum malachurum: the reliability of cuticular and Dufour’s gland odours. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology65: 641-653, DOI 10.1007/s00265-010-1066-1

Field J., Paxton R.J., Soro A, Bridge C. (2010) Cryptic plasticity underlies a major evolutionary transition. Current Biology 20: 1–4, DOI 10.1016/j.cub.2010.10.020.

Soro A., Bridge C., Field J., Cardinal S.C., Paxton R.J. (2010) Genetic differentiation across the social transition in a socially polymorphic sweat bee, Halictus rubicundus. Molecular Ecology 19: 3351-3363.

Soro A., Ayasse M., Zobel M., Paxton R.J. (2009) Complex sociogenetic organization and the origin of unrelated workers in a eusocial sweat bee, Lasioglossum malachurum. Insectes Sociaux 56: 55-63.

Soro A., Paxton R.J. (2009) Characterization of 14 polymorphic microsatellite loci for the facultatively eusocial sweat bee Halictuc rubicundus (Hymenoptera, Halictidae) and their variability in related species. Molecular Ecology Resources 9: 150-152.

Paxton R.J., Ayasse M., Field J., Soro A. (2002) Complex sociogenetic organization and reproductive skew in a primitively eusocial sweat bee, Lasioglossum malachurum, as revealed by microsatellites. Molecular Ecology 11: 2405-2416.

Soro A., Sundberg S., Rydin H. (1999) Species diversity, niche metrics and species associations in harvested and undisturbed bogs. Journal of Vegetation Science 10: 549-560.

Soro A. Paxton R.J. (1999) Plants for bees: the strawberry tree: a significant source of nectar around the Mediterranean basin. Bee World80: 140-144

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