Jérôme Orivel

Research interests

I am interested in the mechanisms underlying species distribution and the evolution of interspecific interactions. With social insects as study systems and especially ants, current projects focus on the processes affecting community assembly rules in leaf-litter ants, the evolution of specific, multipartite interactions and the diversity and evolution of venom peptides in ants.




tél. : (+594) 5 94 32 92 96

fax : (+594) 5 94 32 43 02

email : jerome.orivel at EcoFoG.gf


Since 2012 DR2 CNRS, UMR Ecofog, Kourou.
2010 CR1 CNRS, UMR Ecofog, Kourou.
2007 Habilitation qualification (Habilitation à Diriger des Recherches), Université Toulouse III.
2005 CR1 CNRS, Laboratoire EDB, Université Toulouse III.
2003 CR2, Laboratoire Evolution et Diversité Biologique, Université Toulouse III.
2001 Chargé de recherche CNRS (CR2), Laboratoire d’Etude du Comportement Animal, Université Toulouse III.
2000-2001 Post doctoral researcher, Department of Zoology, Tel Aviv University.
2000 PhD, Université Paris XIII.

Current research projects



Associate Editor


Insect Conservation & Diversity (Home Page)



Axel Cerdan. Diversité des invertébrés d’eau douce de Guyane. Cosupervisor: Jérôme Murienne

Mélanie Fichaux. Disentangling drivers of amazonian ant community structure across geographic and environmental gradients. Cosupervisor: Chris Baraloto



Fabrice Marger. 2011-2013. Electrophysiology and pharmacology of venom toxins.

Mario Xavier Ruiz-Gonzalez. 2008-2009. Molecular ecology of an ant-fungus interaction.


Alex Salas-Lopez. Trophic diversity and quantification of ecosystem processes in ants.

Axel Touchard. Biodiversity, biochemistry and pharmocology of bioactive peptides from ant venoms. Cosupervisor: Pierre Escoubas

Jérémie Lauth. Tripartism in a mutualistic interaction between ants, plants and fungi. Cosupervisors: Alain Dejean & Céline Leroy.

Pierre Jean Malé. 2007-2011. Molecular ecology of an ant-plant association. Co-supervisor: Angélique Quilichini

Julien Grangier. 2004-2008. Evolutionary stability in an obligate and specific ant-plant mutualism. Co-supervisor: Alain Dejean

Latest publications

Articles in international journals

P-120. Sprenger PS, Hartke J, Feldmeyer B, Orivel J, Schmitt T, Menzel F. 2019. Influence of mutualistic lifestyle, mutualistic partner, and climate on cuticular hydrocarbon profiles in parabiotic ants. Journal of Chemical Ecology, DOI:10.1007/s10886-019-01099-9


A vital trait in insects is their cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) profile, which protects the insect against desiccation and serves in chemical communication. Due to these functions, CHC profiles are shaped by both climatic conditions and biotic interactions. Here, we investigated CHC differentiation in the neotropical parabiotic ant species Crematogaster levior and Camponotus femoratus, which mutualistically share a nest. Both consist of two cryptic species each (Cr. levior A and B and Ca. femoratus PAT and PS) that differ genetically and possess strongly different CHC profiles. We characterized and compared CHC profiles of the four cryptic species in detail. Our results suggest that Cr. levior A, Ca. femoratus PAT and Ca. femoratus PS adapted their CHC profiles to the parabiotic lifestyle by producing longer-chain CHCs. At the same time, they changed their major CHC classes, and produce more alkadienes and methyl-branched alkenes compared to Cr. levior B or non-parabiotic species. The CHC profiles of Cr. levior B were more similar to related, non-parabiotic species of the Orthocrema clade than Cr. levior A, and the chain lengths of B were similar to the reconstructed ancestral state. Signals of both the parabiotic partner (biotic conditions) and climate (abiotic conditions) were found in the CHC profiles of all four cryptic species. Our data suggest that mutualisms shaped the CHC profiles of the studied species, in particular chain length and CHC class composition. Beside this, signals of the parabiotic partners indicate potential impacts of biotic interactions, via chemical mimicry or chemical camouflage.

P-119. Vleminckx J, Schimann H, Decaëns T, Fichaux M, Vedel V, Jaouen G, Roy M, Lapied E, Engel J, Dourdain A, Petronelli P, Orivel J, Baraloto C. 2019. Coordinated community structure among five taxonomic groups in Amazonian rainforests. Scientific Reports, 9: 11337.


Little is known regarding how trophic interactions shape community assembly in tropical forests. Here we assess multi-taxonomic community assembly rules using a rare standardized coordinated inventory comprising exhaustive surveys of five highly-diverse taxonomic groups exerting key ecological functions: trees, fungi, earthworms, ants and spiders. We sampled 36 1.9-ha plots from four remote locations in french Guiana including precise soil measurements, and we tested whether species turnover was coordinated among groups across geographic and edaphic gradients. All species group pairs exhibited significant compositional associations that were independent from soil conditions. For some of the pairs, associations were also partly explained by soil properties, especially soil phosphorus availability. our study provides evidence for coordinated turnover among taxonomic groups beyond simple relationships with environmental factors, thereby refining our understanding regarding the nature of interactions occurring among these ecologically important groups.

P-118. Leponce M, Delabie JHC, Orivel J, Jacquemin J, Calvo Martin M, Dejean A. Tree-dwelling ant survey (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) in Mitaraka, French Guiana. Zoosystema 41: 163-179.


Ants constitute a substantial part of the arthropod biomass in rainforests. Most studies have focused on ground-dwelling ants, which constitute almost half of the diversity of the ant assemblage. We report here the results of the first survey of tree-dwelling ants in French Guiana on a plateau and in a swamp palm forest (Euterpe oleracea Mart.) in the Mitaraka Mountains. We were interested in seeing the effect of topography and geographic distance on species richness and composition and to gather information on the species distribution on tree trunks. The fauna of Mitaraka was compared with one from a site 350 km distant (Petit Saut). In total 105 trees were sampled (30, 30, 45 in the plateau and the swamp forests of Mitaraka, and in Petit Saut plateau forest, respectively). Arboreal ants were attracted using tuna and honey baits spread along a rope reaching an upper branch, except for the palm swamp forest where the baits were only placed at 2 m high. A total of 34, 13 and 22 species were observed in these three respective sites. Six of these species are new records for French Guiana. In Mitaraka Camponotus femoratus (Fabricius, 1804) and Crematogaster levior Longino, 2003 co-occurred on trees (parabiotic association) and were among the most common species, along with Crematogaster tenuicula Forel, 1904 which was found on other trees (species exclusion). The Mitaraka Mountains appeared more species rich and had a species composition distinct from Petit Saut. Topography also influenced ant species composition. Almost half of the species collected by the baitline method were exclusively foraging in the canopy.

P-117. Hartke J, Sprenger P, Sahm J, Winterberg H, Orivel J, Baur H, Beuerle T, Schmitt T, Feldmeyer B, Menzel F. 2019. Cuticular hydrocarbons as potential mediators of cryptic species divergence in a mutualistic ant association. Ecology & Evolution, 9: 9160-9176.


Upon advances in sequencing techniques, more and more morphologically identical or‐ ganisms are identified as cryptic species. Often, mutualistic interactions are proposed as drivers of diversification. Species of the neotropical parabiotic ant association between Crematogaster levior and Camponotus femoratus are known for highly diverse cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) profiles, which in insects serve as desiccation barrier but also as communication cues. In the present study, we investigated the association of the ants’ CHC profiles with genotypes and morphological traits, and discovered cryptic species pairs in both genera. To assess putative niche differentiation between the cryptic species, we conducted an environmental association study that included various climate variables, canopy cover, and mutualistic plant species. Although mostly sympatric, the two Camponotus species seem to prefer different climate niches. However in the two Crematogaster species, we could not detect any differences in niche preference. The strong differentiation in the CHC profiles may thus suggest a possible role during speciation itself either by inducing assortative mating or by reinforcing sexual selection after the speciation event. We did not detect any further niche differences in the environmental parameters tested. Thus, it remains open how the cryptic species avoid competitive exclusion, with scope for further investigations.

P-116. Fichaux M, Béchade B, Donald J, Weyna A, Delabie JHC, Murienne J, Baraloto C, Orivel J. 2019. Habitats shape taxonomic and functional composition of Neotropical ant assemblages. Oecologia, 189: 501-513.


Determining assembly rules of co-occurring species persists as a fundamental goal in community ecology. At local scales, the relative importance of environmental filtering vs. competitive exclusion remains a subject of debate. In this study, we assessed the relative importance of habitat filtering and competition in structuring understory ant communities in tropical forests of French Guiana. Leaf-litter ants were collected using pitfall and Winkler traps across swamp, slope and plateau forests near Saül, French Guiana. We used a combination of univariate and multivariate analyses to evaluate trait response of ants to habitat characteristics. Null model analyses were used to investigate the effects of habitat filtering and competitive interactions on community assembly at the scale of assemblages and sampling points, respectively. Swamp forests presented a much lower taxonomic and functional richness compared to slope and plateau forests. Furthermore, marked differences in taxonomic and functional composition were observed between swamp forests and slope or plateau forests. We found weak evidence for competitive exclusion based on null models. Nevertheless, the contrasting trait composition observed between habitats revealed differences in the ecological attributes of the species in the different forest habitats. Our analyses suggest that competitive interactions may not play an important role in structuring leaf-litter ant assemblages locally. Rather, habitats are responsible for driving both taxonomic and functional composition of ant communities.

P-115. Dejean A, Orivel J, Leponce M, Compin A, Delabie JHC, Azémar F, Corbara B. 2018. Ant-plant relationships in the canopy of an Amazonian rainforest : the presence of an ant mosaic. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 125: 344-354.


Using different techniques to access the canopy of an Amazonian rainforest, we inspected 157 tree crowns for arbo- real ants. Diversity statistics showed that our study sample was not representative of the tree and ant populations due to their high diversity in Amazonian rainforests, but permitted us to note that a representative part of territorially dominant arboreal ant species (TDAAs) was inventoried. Mapping of TDAA territories and use of a null model showed the presence of an ant mosaic in the upper canopy, but this was not the case in the sub-canopy. Among the TDAAs, carton-nesting Azteca dominated (52.98% of the trees) whereas ant-garden ants (Camponotus femoratus and Crematogaster levior), common in pioneer formations, were secondarily abundant (21.64% of the trees), and the remaining 25.37% of trees sheltered one of 11 other TDAAs. The distribution of the trees forming the upper canopy influences the structure of the ant mosaic, which is related to the attractiveness of some tree taxa for certain arboreal ant species and represents a case of diffuse coevolution.

P-114. Gibson JC, Larabee FJ, Touchard A, Orivel J & Suarez AV. 2018. Mandible strike kinematics of the trap-jaw ant genus Anochetus Mayr (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Journal of Zoology, 306: 119-128.


High-speed power-amplification mechanisms are common throughout the animal kingdom. In ants, power-amplified trap-jaw mandibles have evolved independently at least four times, including once in the subfamily Ponerinae which contains the sister genera Odontomachus and Anochetus. In Odontomachus, mandible strikes have been relatively well described and can occur in <0.15 ms and reach speeds of over 60 m s-1. In contrast, the kinematics of mandible strikes have not been exam- ined in Anochetus, whose species are smaller and morphologically distinct from Odontomachus. In this study, we describe the mandible strike kinematics of four species of Anochetus representative of the morphological, phylogenetic, and size diversity present within the genus. We also compare their strikes to two representa- tive species of Odontomachus. We found that two species, Anochetus targionii and Anochetus paripungens, have mandible strikes that overall closely resemble those found in Odontomachus, reaching a mean maximum rotational velocity and acceler- ation of around 3.7 9 104 rad s-1 and 8.5 9 108 rad s-2, respectively. This performance is consistent with predictions based on body size scaling relationships described for Odontomachus. In contrast, Anochetus horridus and Anochetus emarginatus have slower strikes relative to the other species of Anochetus and Odontomachus, reaching mean maximum rotational velocity and acceleration of around 1.3 9 104 rad s-1 and 2 9 108 rad s-2, respectively. This variation in strike performance among species of Anochetus likely reflects differences in evolutionary history, physiology, and natural history among species.

P-113. Servigne P, Orivel J, Azémar F, Carpenter J, Dejean A & Corbara B. 2018. A nesting association between fierce social wasps and aggressive ants enabled by the containment behavior of the wasps. Insect Science, DOI: 10.1111/1744-7917.12597


Although the Neotropical territorially dominant arboreal ant Azteca chartifex Forel is very aggressive towards any intruder, its populous colonies tolerate the close presence of the fierce polistine wasp Polybia rejecta (F.). In French Guiana, 83.33% of the 48 P. rejecta nests recorded were found side by side with those of A. chartifex. This nesting association results in mutual protection from predators (i.e., the wasps protected from army ants; the ants protected from birds). We conducted field studies, laboratory- based behavioral experiments and chemical analyses to elucidate the mechanisms allowing the persistence of this association. Due to differences in the cuticular profiles of the two species, we eliminated the possibility of chemical mimicry. Also, analyses of the carton nests did not reveal traces of marking on the envelopes. Because ant forager flows were not perturbed by extracts from the wasps’ Dufour’s and venom glands, we rejected any hypothetical action of repulsive chemicals. Nevertheless, we noted that the wasps “scraped” the surface of the upper part of their nest envelope using their mandibles, likely removing the ants’ scent trails, and an experiment showed that ant foragers were perturbed by the removal of their scent trails. This leads us to use the term “erasure hypothesis.” Thus, this nesting association persists thanks to a relative tolerance by the ants towards wasp presence and the behavior of the wasps that allows them to “contain” their associated ants through the elimination of their scent trails, direct attacks, “wing-buzzing” behavior and ejecting the ants.

P-112. Corbara B, Servigne P, Dejean A, Carpenter JM & Orivel J. 2018. A mimetic nesting association between a timid social wasp and an aggressive arboreal ant. Comptes Rendus Biologie, 314: 182-188.


In French Guiana, the arboreal nests of the swarm-founding social wasp Protopolybia emortualis (Polistinae) are generally found near those of the arboreal dolichoderine ant Dolichoderus bidens. These wasp nests are typically protected by an envelope, which in turn is covered by an additional carton ‘shelter’ with structure resembling the D. bidens nests. A few wasps constantly guard their nest to keep D. bidens workers from approaching. When alarmed by a strong disturbance, the ants invade the host tree foliage whereas the wasps retreat into their nest. Notably, there is no chemical convergence in the cuticular profiles of the wasps and ants sharing a tree. The aggressiveness of D. bidens likely protects the wasps from army ant raids, but the ants do not benefit from the presence of the wasps; therefore, this relationship corresponds to a kind of commensalism.

P-111. Orivel J, Klimes P, Novotny V, Leponce M. 2018. Resource use and food preferences in understorey ant communities along a complete elevational gradient in Papua New Guinea. Biotropica, 50: 641-648.


Elevational gradients provide an interesting opportunity for studying the effect of climatic drivers over short distances on the various facets of biodiversity. It is globally assumed that the decrease in species richness with increasing elevation follows mainly the decrease in ecosystem productivity, but studies on functional diversity still remain limited. Here, we investigated how resource use and food prefer- ences by both individual ant species and communities foraging in the understory vary with elevation along a complete elevational gradi- ent (200 to 3200 m asl). Five bait types reflecting some of the main ecosystem processes in which ants are involved were tested: mutualism (sucrose and melezitose), predation (live termites), and detritivory (crushed insects and chicken feces). The observed mono- tonic decrease in both species richness and occurrences with elevation increase was accompanied by changes in some of the tested ecosystem processes. Such variations can be explained by resource availability and/or resource limitation: Predation and bird feces removal decreased with increasing elevation possibly reflecting a decline in species able to use these resources, while insect detritivory and nectarivory were most probably driven by resource limitation (or absence of limitation), as their relative use did not change along the gradient. Consequently, resource attractiveness (i.e., food preferences at the species level) appears as an important factor in driving community structuring in ants together with the abiotic environmental conditions.

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