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Susanne Foitzik

The Evolution & Molecular Regulation of Ageing in Social Insects

Social insect queens exhibit extraordinarily long life spans of over 40 years. Their sterile workers, however, are short-lived. Yet, whether an egg develops into a queen or a worker is not genetically determined in most social insects, but depends on environmental factors that influence divergent gene expression patterns. The epigenetic regulation of caste development and ageing is the focus of our research. We ask: how can ant queens live for several decades? How is ageing regulated on a molecular level?

Research website

Positions held

  • Since 2019: Member of the DFG Senate (German Science Foundation)
  • Since 2019: Speaker of the RTG 2526 GenEvo: Gene Regulation in Evolution
  • Since 2017: Vice-Dean for research, Faculty of Biology, Johannes Gutenberg University (JGU), Mainz
  • Since 2017: Acting Director, Institute of Organismic and Molecular Evolution IOME
  • Since 2010: Professor in Evolutionary Biology, JGU, Mainz
  • 2004 - 2010: Professor in Behavioral Ecology, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich
  • 2000 - 2004: Scientific Assistant, University of Regensburg
  • 1998 - 2000: Postdoctoral Fellow, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, USA


  • 1998: PhD in Biology, Julius Maximilians University Würzburg
  • 1995: Diploma in Biology, Julius Maximilians University Würzburg

Selected publications by Susanne Foitzik

Beros S, Lenhart A, Scharf I, Negroni MN, Menzel F and Foitzik S (2021) Extreme lifespan extension in tapeworm-infected ant workers. Royal Soc Open Sci, 8:202118 Link

Choppin M, Feldmeyer B, Foitzik S (2021) Histone acetylation regulates the expression of genes involved in worker reproduction in the ant Temnothorax rugatulus. BMC Genomics, 22:871 Link  

Negroni MA, Macit MN, Stoldt M, Feldmeyer B and Foitzik S (2021) Molecular regulation of lifespan extension in fertile ant workers. Philos Trans R Soc B, 376:20190736 Link

Stoldt M, Klein L, Beros S, Butter F, Jongepier E, Feldmeyer B and Foitzik S (2021) Parasite presence induces gene expression changes in an ant host and their function in immunity and longevity. Genes, 12:95 Link

Negroni MA, Segers F, Vogelweith F and Foitzik S (2020) Immune challenge reduces gut microbial diversity and triggers fertility-dependent gene expression changes in a social insect. BMC Genomics, 21:816 Link