Alessandro Cini

Ale under a hover wasps cluster in Malaysia

Ale under a hover wasps cluster in Malaysia

Position: Post-doctoral research fellow (Marie SkłodowskaCurie grant)

Current project: Insect social parasites: behavioural genomics models for understanding the basis of phenotypic evolution

Research interests:

I’m an ethologist interested in animal sociality and communication. I mainly focused my research on social insects (paper wasps, hornets and honeybees) but through collaborations, I have also explored different model organisms (such as two invasive alien species, Drosophila suzukii and Rhynchophorous ferrugineus) as well as rather different topics (biogeography of Mediterranean butterfly assemblages).

I like adopting an integrated approach which combines behavioural, chemical and population genetic tools. In particular, during my PhD, I studied the proximate and ultimate factors affecting the interspecific relationship in the paper wasps social parasite-host system Polistes sulciferPolistes dominula, exploring the life-history traits of this model system and discovering specific behavioural and chemical traits peculiar of the parasite or the host species.

In the Sumner Lab, I will explore the molecular basis of phenotypic evolution using Polistes social parasites and their hosts as model systems. Insect social parasites show striking phenotypic diversity compared to their hosts, having lost ancestral, free-living traits (e.g. worker caste) and gained new ones to evolve a specialised life-history that depends on exploiting host resources. Comparisons of the molecular basis of host and social parasite traits thus provide a unique chance for studying the molecular basis of phenotypic evolution.


2014-2017: Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Florence, Italy. Projects:  UNIFI-UNAPI: Biology and behaviour of Vespa velutina and PRIN: Social immunity in honeybee: behavioural, chemical and microbiological aspects” 2012RCEZWH_001

2012-2014: Post-doctoral Researcher, University Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris, France (Fondation Fyssen Grant)

2012-2014: Post -doc position CRA-Centro Ricerca per la Sperimentazione in Agricoltura, Florence, Italy. (Project LIFE11 NAT/IT/000252 MIPP)

2011-2012:  Center for Research and Innovation, Fondazione E. Mach. Scientific dissemination of the Europan project ENVIROCHANGE

2008-2010: PhD “Ethology and Animal Ecology”   in the “Dipartimento di Biologia Evoluzionistica  Leo Pardi”, Universita’ di Firenze, under the tutorship of Dr.ssa Rita Cervo.

2008: Diploma di Licenza in Scienze Biologiche presso la Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa.

2007: Master’s Degree in Neurobiology, honours summa cum laude, University of Pisa.


Social Insects in the Tropical Environments“, International Master Course TROPIMUNDO, 2014-2016, University of Florence

Experimental Biology Laboratory“, Master degree in Biology, as teaching assistant,Dept. Biology, 2011, University of Florence.

Main Publications (click here for a full list):

Zapponi, L.*, Cini, A.*, Bardiani, M., Hardersen, S., Maura, M., Maurizi, E., … & Roversi, P. F. (2016). Citizen science data as an efficient tool for mapping protected saproxylic beetles. Biological Conservation. *equally contributing authors

Cini A., Patalano S., Segonds-Pichon A., Busby G., Cervo R., Sumner S. (2015). Social parasitism and the molecular basis of phenotypic evolution. Frontiers in Genetics 6, 32.

Inghilesi A.F., Mazza G., Cervo R., Cini A. (2015). A network of sex and competition: The promiscuous mating system of an invasive weevil. Current Zoology 61, 85-97.

Cini, A., Ortolani, I., Zechini, L., & Cervo, R. (2015). Facial markings in the social cuckoo wasp Polistes sulcifer: no support for the visual deception and the assessment hypotheses. Behavioural processes. 111, 19-24.

Cini, A., Anfora, G., Escudero-Colomar, L. A., Grassi, A., Santosuosso, U., Seljak, G., & Papini, A. (2014). Tracking the invasion of the alien fruit pest Drosophila suzukii in Europe. Journal of Pest Science, 87(4), 559-566.

Baracchi, D., & Cini, A. (2014). A Socio Spatial Combined Approach Confirms a Highly Compartmentalised Structure in Honeybees. Ethology, 120(12), 1167-1176.

Cini, A., Nieri, R., Dapporto, L., Monnin, T., & Cervo, R. (2014). Almost royal: incomplete suppression of host worker ovarian development by a social parasite wasp. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68(3), 467-475.

Cini, A., Bruschini, C., Signorotti, L., Pontieri, L., Turillazzi, S., & Cervo, R. (2011). The chemical basis of host nest detection and chemical integration in a cuckoo paper wasp. The Journal of experimental biology, 214(21), 3698-3703.

Cini, A., Bruschini, C., Poggi, L., & Cervo, R. (2011). Fight or fool? Physical strength, instead of sensory deception, matters in host nest invasion by a wasp social parasite. Animal Behaviour, 81(6), 1139-1145.

Cini, A., Gioli, L., & Cervo, R. (2009). A quantitative threshold for nest-mate recognition in a paper social wasp. Biology letters, 5 (4), 459-461.

Monnin, T., Cini, A., Lecat, V., Fédérici, P., & Doums, C. (2009). No actual conflict over colony inheritance despite high potential conflict in the social wasp Polistes dominulus. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 276(1662), 1593-1601.


Science Outreach:

I have been rather intensively devoted to science outreach during the last years through the participation and organization of public conferences and seminar series in Museums, Universities and Natural Reserves across Italy.  I’m particularly interested in how citizens might join and help researchers, and I participated and/or I am currently involved in some citizen science projects, find out more at: LIFEMIPP; Italian Butterflies project on iNat.


cini.ales @