Department of Biology
Maria Litto

University of Fribourg
Dept of Biology
Unit Ecology & Evolution
chemin du Musée 10
CH-1700 Fribourg

+ (41) (0) 26-300 88 67



Current research

My main interests lie on the ecological, evolutionary and genetic aspects of insect-plant interaction and biological invasions, specifically on how the density and the spread of invasive plants can be controlled by biological agents, such as specialist herbivores.

I am currently focusing on the rapid local adaptation to biotic and abiotic conditions in the novel range by using the herbivore Ophraella communa (Col.: Chrysomelidae), recently and accidentally introduced into Europe. This North-American chrysomelid beetle has also been introduced into Asia where it is successfully used as a biological control agent of  common ragweed (Ambrosia artemisiifolia), an invasive weed with highly allergenic pollen.

My PhD project is part of the framework of the EU-COST Action FA1203 on “Sustainable management of Ambrosia artemisiifolia in Europe” (SMARTER;, that in response to this accidental introduction, has launched an Ophraella Task Force, with the aim of investigating the risks and potential benefits of using O. communa as biological control agent to reduce the population density and the pollen production of  common ragweed in Europe.

In this context, I am going to explore phenotype-environment correlations, perform artificial selection experiments with O. communa and collaborate with the Post-Doc Sarah Bouchemousse to better understand the genetics of adaptation in O. communa populations.


Curriculum vitae pdf

Research Assistantship - Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden
Comparison of several populations of Spodoptera littoralis, with respect to different kinds of phenotypic behavioural plasticity
Research Assistantship - University of Naples Federico II, Naples
Trophic interactions and reproductive fitness in Silene latifolia and Brassica rapa
MSc in Biological Sciences - University of Naples Federico II, Naples
Curriculum "Biodiversity, conservation and environmental quality"
BS in Biological Sciences - University of Naples Federico II , Naples
Curriculum "Bioecological"


S. Cozzolino, S. Fineschi, M. Litto, G. Scopece, J. Trunschke, F. P. Schiestl Herbivory increases fruit set in Silene latifolia: a consequence of induced pollinator-attracting floral volatiles?, Journal of Chemical Ecology, 41: 622-630, DOI: 10.1007/s10886-015-0597-3 download

M. Litto, G. Scopece, S. Fineschi, F. P. Schiestl, S. Cozzolino Herbivory affects male and female reproductive success differently in dioecious Silene latifolia (Caryophyllaceae), Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 157: 60-67, DOI: 10.1111/eea.12337 download




Ecology & Evolution - ch du musée - 1700 Fribourg - Tel +41 26 / 300 8835 - Fax +41 26 / 300 9741
heinz.mueller[at] - Swiss University