Dr Ailsa McLean

Royal Society University Research Fellow

  • email ailsa.mclean@biology.ox.ac.uk

Research Interests

I study the roles that symbiotic microorganisms play in the ecology and evolution of insects.

I’m particularly interested in microbial symbionts that form part of an insect’s resistance against attack by natural enemies. These defensive interactions take place within a natural community containing many different players, and I seek to understand how that community context interacts with the symbiosis. How are ecological communities structured by the microbes hidden within animals? Reciprocally, how is that symbiotic community impacted by the external ecology community?

Understanding natural ecology can also help us to tackle questions surrounding the evolution of symbiotic interactions. How do symbionts influence the specialisation and potentially speciation of insects? What drives the variation we observe in symbiont function, both within and between symbiont species?

To answer these questions, I use laboratory and field experiments with insect model systems, mainly aphids and their natural enemies.

Selected publications

McLean, A.H.C., Hrček, J., Parker, B.J., Mathé-Hubert, H., Kaech, H., Paine, C. & Godfray, H.C.J. (2020) A single insect symbiont confers multiple phenotypes independently. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 287(1929), 20200562.

McLean, A.H.C. (2019) Cascading effects of defensive endosymbionts. Current Opinion in Insect Science 32, 42-46.

McLean, A.H.C., Parker, B.J., Hrček, J., Kavanagh, J., Wellham, P. & Godfray H.C.J. (2018) Consequences of multiple symbiont infections for host phenotypes. Journal of Animal Ecology 87(2), 478-488.

McLean, A.H.C. & Godfray, H.C.J. (2017) The outcome of competition between two parasitoid species is influenced by a host facultative symbiont. Functional Ecology 31(4), 927-933.

Hrček, J., McLean, A.H.C., Godfray H.C.J. (2016) Symbionts modify interactions between insects and natural enemies in the field. Journal of Animal Ecology 85(6), 1605-1612.

McLean, A.H.C. & Godfray, H.C.J. (2015) Evidence for specificity in symbiont-conferred protection against parasitoids. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 282(1811), 20150977.