Henrik Hjarvard de Fine Licht

    Postdoctoral Fellow

    Centre for Genomic Ecology
    Section of Microbial Ecology
    Department of Biology
    Lund University, Sweden

    Ecology Building, Solvegatan 37
    22362, Lund, Sweden
    Email: henrik.de_fine_licht(at)biol.lu.se

Education and Employment

Post-doc Lund University, Sweden Jan 2011 -               
Post-doc University of Copenhagen, Denmark Dec 2009 - Dec 2010
PhD University of Copenhagen, Denmark
"Substrate use and enzyme activity in fungus-growing ants", Supervisor: Jacobus J. Boomsma
Sep 2006 - Dec 2009
University of Texas at Austin, USA
Visiting grad student, host: Ulrich G. Mueller
Aug 2008 - Dec 2008
University of Copenhagen, Denmark Apr 2006 - Jun 2006
Master in
University of Copenhagen, Denmark
"Symbiont transmission, specificity and its consequences in two species of fungus-growing termites", supervisors: Duur K. Aanen and Jacobus J. Boomsma
Sep 1999 - Jan 2006
Eidgenosische Technische Hochschule (ETH) Zurich, Switzerland
Socrates-Erasmus student, host: Paul Schmid-Hempel
Jun 2003 - Jan 2004
Gymnasium Mathematical student from Sonderborg Statsskole, Denmark 1998



Cooperation is widespread in nature and governed by social evolution, where the evolutionary trajectories are defined by social interactions among organisms. However, the cooperative outcome of a social interaction is just one end of a continuum ranging from cooperation to parasitism, predation, or spite depending on the context. Specific social interactions may further vary along this continuum in space and time. The questions of how stable cooperation evolves and what key factors are necessary are thus very complex and interesting. A continuous theme in my work is how the interplay of genetic and ecological factors shapes the outcome of prolonged social encounters. I am particularly interested in the underlying genetic factors that influence the evolutionary processes of speciation and adaptation during social interactions.
In my research I have mainly used insect-microbial systems to test general theories of mutualistic evolution. A remarkable example of mutualistic cooperation is insect agriculture, where insects cultivate fungi inside their nests that are provisioned with plant material and later consumed as food. Many of the microorganisms obligately associated with insects in mutualistic interactions are extremely adapted to this lifestyle. Many of these insect-associated microorganisms exhibit great diversity in the complexity of social interactions and degree of coevolution with their insect hosts, making them ideally suited to study social evolution.


2013 De Fine Licht, Henrik H. Schiott, Morten, Rogowska-Wrzesinska, Adelina, Nygaard, Sanne, Roepstorff, Peter and Boomsma, Jacobus J. Laccase detoxification mediates the nutritional alliance between leaf-cutting ants and fungus-garden symbionts, PNAS,110(2), 583-587
2012 De Fine Licht, Henrik H. and Biedermann, Peter H. W. Patterns of functional enzyme activity in fungus farming ambrosia beetles, Frontiers in Zoology, 9, 13
2012 Adams, Rachelle M. M., Jones, Tappey H., Jeter, Andrew W., De Fine Licht, Henrik H., Schultz, Ted R. and Nash, David R. A comparative study of exocrine gland chemistry in Trachymyrmex and Sericomyrmex fungus-growing ants, Biochemical Systematics and Ecology, 40, 91-97
2011 Moller, Isabel E.*, De Fine Licht, Henrik H.*, Harholt, Jesper, Willats, William T. G.** and Boomsma, Jacobus J.**, The dynamics of plant cell-wall polysaccharide decomposition in leaf-cutting ant fungus gardens, Plos One 6(3), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017506
* These authors contributed equally to this work, ** These senior authors contributed equally to this work
2011 Kooij, Pepijn W., Schiott, Morten, Boomsma, Jacobus J., and De Fine Licht, Henrik H., Rapid shifts in Atta cephalotes fungus-garden enzyme activity after a change in fungal substrate (Attini, Formicidae), Insectes Sociaux 58, 145-151
2010 De Fine Licht, Henrik H. and Boomsma, Jacobus J. Forage collection, substrate preparation and diet composition in fungus-growing ants, Ecological Entomology 35, 259-269, Review article
2010 De Fine Licht, Henrik H., Schiott, Morten, Mueller, Ulrich and Boomsma, Jacobus J. Evolutionary transitions in enzyme activity of ant fungus gardens Evolution 64, 2055-2069
2009 Aanen, Duur K., De Fine Licht, Henrik H., Debets, Alfons J. M., Kerstes, Niels, Hoekstra, Rolf F. and Boomsma, Jacobus J. High symbiont relatedness stabilizes mutualistic cooperation in fungus-growing termites, Science, 326, 1103-1106
2008 Schiott, Morten, De Fine Licht, Henrik H., Lange, Lene and Boomsma, Jacobus J. Towards a molecular understanding of symbiont function: Identification of a fungal gene for the degradation of xylan in the fungus gardens of leaf-cutting ants, BMC Microbiology, 8, 40
2007 Aanen, Duur K., Ros, Vera I. D., De Fine Licht, Henrik H., Rouland-Lefevre, Corinne, Mitchel, Jannette, Slippers, Bernard and Boomsma, Jacobus J. Patterns in interaction specificity of fungus-growing termites and Termitomyces symbionts in South Africa, BMC evolutionary Biology, 7, 115
2007 De Fine Licht, Henrik H., Boomsma, Jacobus J. and Aanen, Duur K. Asymmetric interaction specificity between two sympatric termites and their fungal symbionts, Ecological Entomology, 32, 76-81
2006 De Fine Licht, Henrik H., Boomsma, Jacobus J. and Aanen, Duur K. Presumptive horizontal symbiont transmission in the fungus-growing termite Macrotermes natalensis, Molecular Ecology, 15, 3131-3138
2005 De Fine Licht, Henrik H., Andersen, Anders and Aanen, Duur K. Termitomyces sp. associated with the termite Macrotermes natalensis has a heterothallic mating system and multinucleate cells, Mycological Research, 109, 314-318

Popular scientific publications

2013 De Fine Licht, Henrik H. Laer af naturens egne samfund, moMentum+, April 2013, 1, 17-21 (In Danish)
2011 De Fine Licht, Henrik H. Myrer holder husdyr, slaver og har logerende, Kaskelot, May 2011, 187, 12-16 (In Danish)
2011 De Fine Licht, Henrik H. Aggression og slaegtsskab hos myrer, Kaskelot, May 2011, 187, 18-19 (In Danish)
2010 De Fine Licht, Henrik H. Myrer benytter bioreaktorer, Aktuel Naturvidenskab, nr. 4, 10-14 (In Danish)
2010- Blog-posts on Videnskab.dk can be found here (In Danish)