Jacintha Ellers

Jacintha Ellers, Professor of Evolutionary ecology, and Head of the section Animal Ecology


I am interested to understand how an individual’s phenotype is shaped by the joint interplay of its genes, genome, and environment. I combine molecular, physiological and experimental tools with evolutionary approaches to link the underlying mechanisms to adaptive explanations.


My research focuses in three major areas: 

(1) Causes and consequences of phenotypic plasticity.

I study the evolution of temperature-induced plasticity in ectotherms, including reaction norms for life history traits and tolerance to extreme temperatures. I also investigate insect learning as a form of behavioural plasticity, using experimental evolution to identify molecular mechanisms underlying natural variation in learning.

(2) Evolution of trait loss and dependency in ecological interactions.

Ecological interactions provide resources to partners which may cause redundancy and dependency in the receiving partner. I study the evolutionary trajectories towards obligate species interactions, using different model systems: obligate endosymbiosis in insects, loss of lipogenesis in parasitoid insects, and diet-induced loss of essential metabolic functions.

(3) The role of trait evolution in community ecology.

This research lines integrates evolutionary concepts into ecology by using intraspecific variation in species traits and trait plasticity to understand the impact of global change on the outcome of species interaction and community composition. I use a trait-based approach based and co-authored the handbook of protocols promoting standardized measurements of invertebrate functional traits across taxa and trophic levels.

Selected Publications

Morretti M, Dias ATC, de Bello F, Altermatt F, Chown S, Azcárate FM, Bell JR, Fournier B, Hedde M, Hortal J, Ibanez S, Öckinger E, Sousa JP, Ellers J, Berg MP (2017) A handbook of protocols for standardized measurement of terrestrial invertebrate functional traits. Functional Ecology 31: 558–567.

Kraaijeveld K, Anvar Y, Frank J, Schmitz A, Bast J, Wilbrandt J, Petersen M, Ziesmann T, Niehuis O, de Knijff P, den Dunnen J, Ellers J (2016) Genome-wide mutation load in sexual and asexual lineages of a parasitoid wasp. Genome Biology and Evolution 8: 3685-3695.

Ellers J, Kiers ET, Currie CR, McDonald BR, Visser B (2012) Ecological interactions drive evolutionary loss of traits. Ecol. Lett. 15, 1071-1082.

Visser B, Le Lann C, den Blanken FJ, Harvey JA, van Alphen JJM, Ellers J (2010) Trait loss as an evolutionary consequence of a parasitic lifestyle. Proc Nat Acad Sci 107: 8677-8682.

Berg MP, Kiers ET, Driessen G, van der Heijden MGA, Kooi BW, Kuenen FJA, Liefting M, Verhoef HA, Ellers J (2010) Adapt or disperse: understanding species persistence in a changing world. Global Change Biol 16: 587-598.

Link to full publication list in PURE


Other Links

Google Scholar page:

I am a board member of the Origins Center, for the study of origins and evolution of life, planets and the universe


TV-interview NPO Kennis van Nu: Invasie van exotische soorten (20 april 2017)


Radio-interview VPRO Labyrint: Functieverlies bij co-evolutie (17 feb 2013)


My columns in Ad Valvas