Donato A. Grasso

Contact Address:
Department of Chemistry, Life Sciences and Environmental Sustainability
Università di Parma
Viale delle Scienze 11/a
43124 Parma
Tel.: +39 0521 906602
Fax: +39 0521 905657

Associate Professor

Observing cooperation between ants

Observing cooperation between ants

My scientific activity mainly concerns Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology. In particular, the main topics of my research regard several aspects of ant biology (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) studied with a multidisciplinary approach. My initial Behavioural, morpho-functional, chemical and bioacoustical investigations were mainly focused on the foraging and raiding activity, alarm and defence, territorial marking, orientation, reproductive behaviour and colony founding in both social parasites (such as the slave-making ants, Polyergus rufescens and Formica sanguinea) and free-living species (e.g. Formica spp., Messor spp.).

I am actually very interested in the study of interactions involving ants and other organisms. This topic offers the great opportunity of tackling important eco-ethological and sociobiological questions while studying aspects of ant biology with many applicative implications. In particular, our investigations are addressed to symbiotic relationships involving ants and honeydew producing insects and on how ants may affect the action of the pests’ natural enemies (predators or parasitoids) both in natural conditions and during biological control. Among our study systems we have also the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile), an invasive species whose impact in both natural and agro-ecosystems of invaded areas may be quite  strong. Another species on wich we address our reserch is the acrobat ant Crematogaster scutellaris, a common arboreal species that engages in complex multitrophic interactions with different components of their enviroments and represents an interesting eco-ethological study model. In particular, my actual interest is mainly focused on ethological, ecological and applicative implications of ant-plant interactions and mutualisms, as well as on relationships involving ants, bacteria and fungi. The role of ants in agroecosystems and their use as tools in agriculture as biological control agents are the applicative side of this research.

Other topics of my research concern ecological and sociobiological aspects (e.g. intra- and inter-specific competition and space partitioning, defensive strategies, microhabitat segregation, colony founding, polymorphism and division of labour) in different ant species. Our main study models  are Mediterranean seed-harvester ants of the genus Messor. Finally, further investigation are addressed to study the ant community structure in different habitat, urban ants, and the ant fauna as possible bioindicator for measuring environmental quality, especially in areas with a strong impact of human activities, such as the agro-ecosystems.

Since 1989 I presented scientific contributions at more than 40 National and 30 International Congresses.
I am author of more than 100 scientific papers on international and national journals.



Since 2000 Member of the Doctorate School in “Biology of Behaviour” (University of Parma).
Since 2012 Member of the Doctorate School in “Evolutionary Biology and Ecology” (Universities of Parma and Ferrara)

Since 1995 Tutor for more than 40 MD Theses and 7 PhD Students.

Since 1990 member of the Italian Section IUSSI (International Union for the Study of Social Insects).
2001-2014 member of the Council of the Italian Section IUSSI (International Union for the Study of Social Insects).
2005-2010 President of the Italian Section IUSSI (International Union for the Study of Social Insects).
Since 1994 member of the Italian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour (Società Italiana di Etologia – S.I.E.).
2008-2012 Council member of the Italian Society for the Study of Animal Behaviour (Società Italiana di Etologia – S.I.E.).
Since 2008 member of Italian Union of Zoology (U.Z.I.)

Since 2014 Member of the Scientific Committee of the Società Museo Civico di Rovereto

Since 2017 Member of the Ethic Commitee of the Società Museo Civico di Rovereto

Since 2017 Member of the Italian Society of Entomology

Since 2017 Member of the Italian Society for Evolutionary Biology (SIBE)

1990 M.D. in Biological Sciences (University of Parma, Italy).
1992 Habilitation for the Profession of Biologist.
1994 PhD in “Ethology”.
1996-1998 Post-Doc in Fundamental Biological Sciences.
1999-2014 Researcher in Zoology at the Faculty of Science (University of Parma).

Since 2014 Associate Professor of “Zoology” and “Behavioural Ecology & Sociobiology”, Dept. of Life Sciences (Dip. Bioscienze), (University of Parma).

2017 Habilitation to Full Professor in Entomology.

2018 Habilitation to Full Professor in Zoology. 



IL FORMICAIO INTELLIGENTE: Come vivono e che cosa possono insegnarci i più sociali tra gli insetti (2018), Zanichelli Editore