My research is focused on insect resistance to plant toxins. My main goal is to understand the macroevolution of resistance traits in a mechanistic way. Currently, I’m using phytophagous insects and plants producing cardenolides (aka cardiac glycosides) as a model system to study physiological adaptations. In accordance I’m also interested in beneficial sequestration of these toxins.
Insect resistance to host plant toxins is a syndrome and as such is composed of multiple strategies (e.g. target site insensitivity of receptors, see Petschenka et al. 2013a or barriers preventing the uptake of toxins, see Petschenka et al. 2013b). Using comparative and integrative approaches I’m trying to disentangle this complexity. My study systems include milkweed butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae: Danaini), arctiid moths (Lepidoptera: Arctiidae), milkweed bugs (Heteroptera: Lygaeidae: Lygaeinae), and leaf-miner flies (Agromyzidae).