mw. dr. A.T. (Astrid) Groot

  • Faculteit der Natuurwetenschappen, Wiskunde en Informatica
  • Bezoekadres:
    Science Park A
    Science Park 904  Amsterdam
    Kamernummer: C3.207
  • Postadres:
    Postbus  94248
    1090 GE  Amsterdam
    T:  0205255400

Groot group & main collaborators 2015

Evolution of moth sexual communication and speciation

Our main research question is how sexual attraction is involved in the initial divergence of populations, and thus the first step in speciation. Since sexual attraction can directly lead to assortative mating, we aim to understand which genes are involved in within-species variation and which factors may cause variation in sexual attraction. For a more detailed description, see below "Current research projects at UvA", where I work 80% of my time, and my website at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, where I work 20% of my time.See also the tab "Research"




Groot AT, Dekker T, Heckel DG. 2016. The genetic basis of pheromone evolution in moths. Annual Review of Entomology, in press (early online)


De Bruijn PJA, Egas M, Sabelis MW, Groot AT. 2015. Context-dependent alarm signalling in an insect. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, in press.

Groot AT, Unbehend M , Hänniger S, Juárez ML, Kost S, Heckel DG. 2015. Evolution of reproductive isolation of Spodoptera frugiperda . In Allison J & Cardé R (eds) Sexual communication in moths. In press

Juárez ML, Ruiz MJ, Fernández P, Goane L,Villagrán ME, Arce O, Armiñana1 A, Páez Jerez PG, de la Vega MH, Vera MT, Groot AT. Communication interference in sympatrically occurring moth species. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, early online (DOI: 10.1111/eea.1237)

Schlager S, Beran F, Groot AT, Ulrichs C, Veit D, Paetz C, Karumuru BRM, Srinivasan R, Schreinder M, Mewis I. 2015. Pheromone blend analysis and cross-attraction among Maruca vitrata populations from Asia and West Africa. Journal of Chemical Ecology, in press.

Staudacher H, Menken SBJ, Groot AT. 2015. Effects of immune challenge on the oviposition strategy of a noctuid moth. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, in press.

Van Geffen K, Groot AT, Van Grunsven RHA, Donners M, Berendse F, Veenendaal E. 2015. Artificial night lighting disrupts sex pheromone in a noctuid moth Ecological Entomology 40: 401-408


Barthel A, Kopka I, Vogel H, Zipfel P, Heckel DG,Groot AT. 2014. Immune defence strategies of generalist and specialist insect herbivores. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 281, 20140897

Dúmenil C, Judd GJR, Bosch D, Baldessari M, Gemeno C, Groot AT. 2014. Intraspecific variation in female sex pheromone of the codling moth Cydia pomonella. Insects 5: 705-721.

Groot AT. 2014. Circadian rhythms of sexual activities in moths: a review. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, section Chemical Ecology, 2: 43.

Groot AT, Schöfl G, Inglis O, Donnerhacke S, Classen A, Schmalz A, Santangelo RG, Emerson J, Gould F, Schal C, Heckel DG. 2014. Within-population variability in a moth sex pheromone blend: genetic basis and behavioural consequences. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 218.

Henniges-Janssen K, Heckel DG, Groot AT. 2014. Preference of diamondback moth larvae for novel and original host plant after host range expansion. Insects 5: 793-804

Juárez  ML, Schöfl G, Vera MT, Vilardi JC, Murúa MG, Willink E, Hänniger S, Heckel DG, Groot AT. 2014. Population structure of Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) corn- and rice-host form in South America: Are they host races? Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 152: 182-199

Karpinski A, Haenniger S, Schoefl G, Heckel DG, Groot AT. 2014. Host plant specialization in the generalist moth Heliothis virescens. Evolutionary Ecology 28:1075–1093

Xu J, Huigens ME, Orr D, Groot AT. 2014. Differential arrestment of Trichogramma wasps to extreme sex pheromone types of the noctuid moth Heliothis virescens. Ecological Entomology 39: 627–636.


Groot A.T., H. Staudacher, A. Barthel, O. Inglis, G. Schöfl, R.G. Santangelo, S. Gebauer-Jung S, H. Vogel, J. Emerson, C. Schal C, D.G. Heckel anf F. Gould. 2013. One quantitative trait locus for intra- and interspecific variation in a sex pheromone.  Molecular Ecology 22: 1065–1080.

Unbehend M, Hänniger S, Vásquez GM, Juárez ML, Reisig D, McNeil JN, Meagher RL, Jenkins DA, Heckel DG, Groot AT. 2013. Geographic variation in sexual attraction of S podoptera frugiperda corn- and rice-strain males to pheromone lures. Plos One 9, e89255

Unbehend M, Hänniger S, Meagher RL, Heckel DG, Groot AT. 2013. Pheromonal divergence between two strains of Spodoptera frugiperda. Journal of Chemical Ecology 39: 364-376.


Hagström AK, Liénard MA, Groot AT, Hedenström E, Löfstedt C. 2012. Semi–selective fatty acyl reductases from four heliothine moths influence the specific pheromone composition. PLoS One 7(5), e37230.

Juárez ML, Murúa MG, García MG, Ontivero M, Vera MT, Vilardi JC, Groot AT, Castagnaro AP, Gastaminza G, Willink E. 2012. Host association of Spodoptera frugiperda (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) corn and rice strains in Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Journal of Economic Entomology, 105(2): 573-582.

 Przybyłowicz T, Roessingh P, Groot AT, Biesmeijer K, Oostermeijer G, Chittka L, Gravendeel B. 2012. Possible chemical mimicry of the European lady’s slipper orchid ( Cypripedium calceolus) . Contributions to Zoology 81: 103-110.


Groot AT, Classen A, Inglis O, Blanco CA, Lopez J Jr, Teran Vargas A, Schal C, Heckel DG, Schoefl G. 2011. Genetic differentiation across North America in the generalist moth Heliothis virescens and the specialist H. subflexa. Molecular Ecology 20: 2676-2692.

Henniges-Janssen K, Reineke A, Heckel DG, Groot AT. 2011. Complex inheritance of larval adaptation in Plutella xylostella to a novel host plant. Heredity 107: 421-432.

Henniges-Janssen K, Schöfl G, Reineke A, Heckel DG, Groot AT. 2011. Oviposition of diamondback moth in the presence and absence of a novel host plant. Bulletin of Entomological Research, 101, 99-105.

Schöfl G, Dill A, Heckel DG, Groot AT. 2011. Allochronic separation vs. mate-choice: nonrandom patterns of mating between fall armyworm host-strains. American Naturalist, 177(4), 470-485

Terenius O, A Papanicolaou, J.S. Garbutt, I. Eleftherianos, H. Huvenne, S. Kanginakudru, M. Albrechtsen, C.J. An, J.L. Aymeric, A. Barthel, P. Bebas, K. Bitra, A. Bravo, F. Chevalieri, D.P. Collinge, C.M. Crava, R.A. Maagd, de, B. Duvic, M. Erlandson, I. Faye, G Felfoldi, H. Fujiwara, R. Futahashi, A.S. Gandhe, H.S. Gatehouse, L.N. Gatehouse, J.M. Giebultowicz, I. Gomez, C.J.P. Grimmelikhuijzen, A.T. Groot, F. Hauser, D.G. Heckel, D.D. Hegedus, S. Hrycaj, L.H. Huang, J.J. Hull, G. Iatrou, M Iga, M.R. Kanost, J. Kotwica, C.Y. Li, J.H. Li, J.S. Liu, SM Lundmark, S. Matsumoto, M. Meyering-Vos, P.J. Millichap, A. Monteiro, N. Mrinal, T Niimi, D. Nowara, A. Ohnishi, V. Oostra, K. Ozaki, M. Papakonstantinou, A. Popadic, M.V. Rajam, S. Saenko, R.M. Simpson, M. Soberon, M.R. Strand, S. Tomita, U. Toprak, P. Wang, C.W. Wee, S. Whyard, W.Q. Zhang, J. Nagaraju, R.H. Ffrench-Constant, S. Herrero, K. Gordon, L. Swelters & G. Smagghe (2011). RNA interference in Lepidoptera: An overview of successful and unsuccessful studies and implications for experimental design. Journal of Insect Physiology, 57(2), 231-245.


Blanco CA, Gould F, Groot AT, Abel CA, Hernandez G, Perera OP, Teran-Vargas AP. 2010. Offspring from sequential natings between Bacillus thuringiensis-resistant and Bacillus thuringiensis-susceptible Heliothis virescens moths (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). Journal of Economic Entomology, 103, 801-808.

Gould F, Estock M, Hillier NK, Powell B, Groot AT, Ward CM, Emerson JL, Schal C, Vickers NJ. 2010. Sexual isolation of male moths explained by a single pheromone response QTL containing four receptor genes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 107, 8660-8665.

Groot AT, Blanco CA, Claßen A, Inglis O, Santangelo RG, Lopez J, Heckel DG, Schal C. 2010. Variation in sexual communication of the tobacco budworm, Heliothis virescens. Southwestern Entomologist, 35, 367-372.

Groot AT, Claßen A, Staudacher H, Schal C, Heckel DG. 2010. Phenotypic plasticity in sexual communication signal of a noctuid moth. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 23, 2731-2738.

Groot AT, Marr M, Heckel DG, Schöfl G. 2010. The roles and interactions of reproductive isolation mechanisms in fall armyworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) host strains. Ecological Entomology, 35, 105-118.

Lassance JM, Groot AT, Liénard MA, Binu A, Borgwardt C, Andersson F, Hedenström E, Heckel DG, Löfstedt C. 2010. Allelic variation in a fatty-acyl reductase gene causes divergence in moth sex pheromones. Nature, 466, 486-489.

Olsson S, Kesevan S, Groot AT, Dekker T, Heckel DG, Hansson B. 2010. Ostrinia revisited: Evidence for sex linkage in European Corn Borer Ostrinia nubilalis (Hubner) pheromone reception. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 10.

Vogel H, Heidel A, Heckel DG, Groot AT. 2010. Transcriptome analysis of the sex pheromone gland of the noctuid moth Heliothis virescens. BMC Genomics, 11, 29.


Blanco CA, Andow DA, Abel CA, Sumerford DV, Hernandez G, Lopez JD, Adams L, Groot AT, Leonard R, Parker R, Payne G, Pereira OP, Teran-Vargas AP, Azuara-Dominguez A. 2009. Bacillus thuringiensis CryAc resistance frequency in Tobacco Budworm (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae ). Journal of Economic Entomology, 102(1), 381-387.

Blanco CA, Rojas MG, Groot AT, Morales-Ramos J, Abel CA. 2009. Size and chemical composition of Heliothis virescens (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) spermatophores. Annals of the Entomological Society of America, 102(4), 629-637.

Gould FL; Groot AT; Vasquez GM; Schal C. 2009. Sexual communication in Lepidoptera: a need for wedding genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology. In: Goldsmith MR; Marec F (Eds.): Molecular Biology and Genetics of the Lepidoptera. Taylor & Francis.

Groot AT, Estock ML, Horovitz JL, Hamilton J, Santangelo RG, Schal C, Gould F. 2009a. QTL analysis of sex pheromone blend differences between two closely related moths: insights into divergence in biosynthetic pathways. Insect Biochemistry and Molecular Biology 39: 568-577.

Groot AT, Inglis O, Bowdridge S, Santangelo RG, Blanco C, Lopez Jr J, Teran-Vargas A, Gould F, Schal C. 2009b. Geographic and temporal variation in moth chemical communication. Evolution 63: 1987-2003.

Schöfl G, Heckel DG, Groot AT. 2009. Time-shifted reproductive behaviours among fall armyworm (Noctuidae: Spodoptera frugiperda) host strains: Evidence for differing modes of inheritance. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 22: 1447-1459.


Blanco C, Perera OP, Groot AT, Hernandez G, Teran-Vargas AP. 2008. Paternity allocation in a mutant Heliothis virescens colony. Southwestern Entomologist 33, 253-263

Groot AT, Marr M, Schöfl G, Lorenz S, Svatoš A, Heckel DG. 2008. Host strain specific sex pheromone variation in Spodoptera frugiperda. Frontiers in Zoology 5: 21


Groot AT, Santangelo RG, Ricci E, Brownie C, Gould F, Schal C. 2007. Differential attraction of Heliothis subflexa males to synthetic pheromone lures in Eastern US and Western Mexico. Journal of Chemical Ecology 33: 353-368.


Groot AT, Horovitz JL, Hamilton J, Santangelo RG, Schal C, Gould F. 2006. Experimental evidence for interspecific directional selection on moth pheromone communication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 103: 5858-5863

Sheck AL, Groot AT, Ward C, Gemeno C, Wang J, Gould F. 2006. Genetics of pheromone blend differences between Heliothis virescens and Heliothis subflexa: a chromosome mapping approach. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 19: 600-617.


Choi M-Y, Groot AT, Jurenka RA. 2005. Pheromone biosynthetic pathways in the moths Heliothis subflexa and Heliothis virescens. Archives Insect Biochemistry and Physiology 59: 53-58.

Groot AT, Fan Y, Brownie C, Jurenka RA, Gould F, Schal C. 2005. Effect of PBAN on pheromone production in mated Heliothis virescens and Heliothis subflexa females. Journal of Chemical Ecology 31: 15-28.

Groot AT, Gemeno C, Brownie C, Gould F, Schal C. 2005. Male and female antennal responses in Heliothis virescens and H. subflexa to conspecific and heterospecific sex pheromone compounds. Environmental Entomology 32:256-263.


Groot AT, Ward C, Wang J, Pokrzywa A, O'Brien J, Bennett J, J. Kelly, R.G. Santangelo, C. Schal & F. Gould. 2004. Introgressing pheromone QTL between species: towards and evolutionary understanding of differentiation in sexual communication. Journal of Chemical Ecology 30: 2495-2514.


Drijfhout FP, Groot AT, van Beek TA, Visser JH. 2003. Mate location in the green capsid bug, Lygocoris pabulinus. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 106: 73-77.

Groot AT, Heijboer A, Visser JH, Dicke M. 2003. Oviposition preference of Lygocoris pabulinus (Het., Miridae) in relation to plants and conspecifics. Journal of Applied Entomology 127: 65-71


Drijfhout FP, Groot AT, Posthumus MA, van Beek TA, de Groot AE. 2002. Coupled gas chromatographic-electroantennographic responses of Lygocoris pabulinus to female and male produced pheromones. Chemoecology 12: 113-118

Groot AT, Dicke M. 2002. Insect-resistant transgenic plants in a multitrophic context. The Plant Journal 31 (4): 387-406.


Drijfhout FP, Groot AT. 2001. Close-range attraction in Lygocoris pabulinus. Journal of Chemical Ecology 27: 1133-1149.

Groot AT, Dicke M. 2001. Transgenic crops in an agro-ecological context: multitrophic aspects of insect-resistant plants. Wageningen, Ponsen & Looyen. ISBN 90-6754-652-6. 76 pp.

Groot AT, Drijfhout FP, Heijboer A, van Beek TA, Visser JH. 2001. Disruption of sexual communication in the mirid bug Lygocoris pabulinus by hexyl butanoate. Agricultural and Forest Entomology 3: 49-55.

Groot AT, Visser JH. 2001. Influence of host plants on sexual communication in the herbivorous bug Lygocoris pabulinus. Chemoecology 11: 161-166.


Groot AT, Smid HM. 2000. Polyandry in Lygocoris pabulinus – effects on sexual communication and fecundity. Invertebrate Reproduction and Development 38: 143-155.

< 2000

Groot AT, Timmer R, Gort G, Lelyveld GP, Drijfhout FP, van Beek TA, Visser JH. 1999. Sex-related perception of insect and plant volatiles in Lygocoris pabulinus (L.). Journal of Chemical Ecology 25: 2357-2371.

Groot AT, van der Wal AJ, Schuurman A, Visser JH, Blommers LHM, van Beek TA. 1998. Copulation behaviour of Lygocoris pabulinus under laboratory conditions. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata 88: 219-228.

Tuomisto H, Groot AT. 1995. Identification of the juveniles of some ferns from western Amazonia. American Fern Journal 85: 1-28.

Sexual communication and speciation

Sexual attraction is the first step in determining who mates with whom. The evolution of sexual communication thus plays a pivotal role in the process of speciation. However, very little is known on the causes of initial divergence between populations in finding mating partners, and whether variation in sexual attraction can drive divergence between populations or whether such variation follows after populations have diverged due to ecological factors. Nocturnal moths are ideal animals to address this research question, because their communication channel is virtually all pheromonal, and the pheromone components are very well defined. Our research revolves around the following two major questions: I) what is the genetic basis of intraspecific variation in sexual communication, and II) what environmental factors may (have) cause(d) variation in sexual communication. Our research can be divided into six main areas.

a. Signal and response coevolution

In our efforts on finding the genetic basis of female sex pheromone signals and male response, so far we found that the signal and response QTL do not overlap. This begs the question of how both traits can coevolve. By identifying the genes and environmental factors that may influence sexual signals and/or response, we aim to get insight in how such coevolution may arise.

b. Phenotypic plasticity in moth sexual communication

Plasticity in the sex pheromone composition in female moths can be expected, because females produce their pheromone de novo every night and in many moth species females can perceive their own pheromone compounds. We found plasticity in the sex pheromone of a noctuid moth (see Groot et al. 2010. J. Evol. Biol. 23).We currently aim to identify the level and extent of plasticity in moth sexual communication, and the underlying mechanisms.

PhD project Rik Lievers.

This project is funded by NWO-ALW (award nr. 822.01.012)

c. Sex and immunity

Most likely generalists are exposed and/or affected differently to stress factors in their larval life than specialists, as generalists may encounter a number of different environments. Possibly, stress factors early in life (i.e. in the larval stage) affect adult (sexual) behavior. We are exploring differential immune defense responses in the generalist Heliothis virescens and the specialist H. subflexa and possible effects on their sexual communication. We are also assessing the bacterial midgut community in different moth species and their possible role in host plant preference and performance.


d. Circadian rhythms of sexual communication in moth

Many moth species show specific daily rhythms in their sexual activities, some species being sexually active early at night while others are sexually active late at night. However, the genetic differentiation of this allochronic separation has not been examined in any species so far. We are investigating the genetic basis of allochronic differentiation in two strains of the noctuid moth Spodoptera frugiperda (PhD project Sabine Haenniger), and latitudianl and temporal variation in timing of sexual activities in the noctuid moth Helicoverpa armigera (PhD project Gao Ke).

e. Attraction of moths to host plant odors

Female moths need to find suitable host plants to lay their eggs on. Identification of the host plant odors that females use can help to develop pest management strategies specifically aimed to trap female moths. In collaboration with Dr. Hossein Goldansaz (University of Tehran), we aim to identify host plant odors to which females of the carob moth Ectomyelois ceratoniae are attracted.


f. Postzygotic isolation in moths

Speciation is caused by the evolution of reproductive isolation barriers that reduce or prevent gene flow between diverging populations. In contrast to premating isolation mechanisms, postmating isolation mechanisms do not act directly on the members of the diverging populations, but on the resulting hybrids and thus come into play when premating isolation is incomplete or absent. We investigate the genetic basis of hybrid incompatibility in three moth species.

Seyed Ali Hosseini (UvA - Univ. Tehran) - PhD student

Gao Ke (UvA) - PhD student

Dennis van Veldhuizen (UvA) - technician

Peter Kuperus (UvA) - technician

Join the group?

If you are highly motivated, dedicated and eager to become involved in our research on the evolution of sexual attraction, please contact me at Highly motivated MSc students are always welcome, and I would very much like to help PhD students and postdocs in finding funding for a research position.





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