My group welcomes BSc, Master and PhD Students interested in the developmental plasticity of behaviour, its function and underlying mechanisms.

Research Interests

Developmental effects on behaviour and life-history decisions

The environment experienced early in life can shape phenotypes lifelong, sometimes inducing major phenotypic change of key life history traits or behavioural strategies. Such lasting effects of developmental plasticity impacts Darwinian fitness and should be subject to selection. Nevertheless, the adaptive value of developmental plasticity is still subject to ongoing debate. One key problem hampering the understanding of developmental plasticity is that its mechanisms and function are mostly studied in simple laboratory environments testing for the effects of only a single environmental factor during a single ontogenetic period. However, most natural environments are multi-dimensional and complex and environmental influences affect development at multiple ontogenetic stages. Therefore our research aims to obtain an integrative understanding of how complex environments shape the phenotypes of vertebrates, by considering both the functional consequences of developmental effects and the mechanistic underpinnings of these effects. For instance, our reseach revealed that two divergent social behaviour phenotypes emerge due to early life experience, which are shaped by the interaction between social gorup size and predation risk. As model system we use the Lake Tanganyika cichlid Neolamprologus pulcher, a highly social fish species, which lives in stable social groups and exhibits cooperative breeding. This cichlid is accessible to laboratory experiments in semi-natural settings and physiological and neurobiologal analyses as well as to ecological surveys, long-term records of individual life-histories, and large-scale experiments in the wild.

The research in my group focusses mainly on (1) effects of the early environment through developmental plasticity on adaptations of the social phenotype and emergent properties at the society level such as social organisations and division of labour; (2) parental effects on later-life traits and their non-genetic inheritance to subsequent generations; (3) neuromolecular and endocrine regulation of behavioural traits; (4) effects of early social experience on cognition and behavioural flexibility; and (5) the evolution of behaviour and life history decisions by theoretical modelling.

Curriculum Vitae

Since 2013 Associate Professor, University of Bern
Since 2007 Docent, University of Bern
2006-2009 Research Scholar, IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria
2002-2006 Part time researcher (Post-Doc), University of Bern
1995-2002 Post-Doc, KLIVV, Vienna, Austria
1988-1995 MSc and PhD student, University of Vienna, Austria


Sharda, S., Zuest, T., Erb, M. & Taborsky, B. (2021). Predator-induced maternal effects determine adaptive antipredator behaviors via egg composition. PNAS 118, e2017063118 [pdf]

Antunes, D.F., Teles, M.C., Zuellin, M., Frisen, C.N., Oliveira, R.F., Aubin-Horth, N. & Taborsky, B. (2021).Early social deprivation shapes neuronal programming of the social decision-making network in a cooperatively breeding fish. Mol Ecol. 30, 4118 - 4132 [pdf]

Taborsky, B. (2021). A positive feedback loop between sociality and social competence. Ethology 127, 774-789. [pdf]

Taborsky, B. (2021). Editorial for Special Issue “The evolution of social behaviour” of Ethology 127, 751-757 [pdf]

Jordan, L.A., Taborsky, B. & Taborsky M. (2021). Cichlids as a model system for studying social behaviour and evolution. In M. E. Abate & D. L. G. Noakes (Eds.), The Behavior, Ecology and Evolution of Cichlid Fishes. Springer, pp. 587-635

Lerena, D.A.M., Antunes, D.F. & Taborsky, B. (2021). The interplay between winner-loser effects and social rank in cooperatively breeding vertebrates. Anim. Behav. 177, 19-29 [pdf]

Stettler, P.R., Antunes, D.F. & Taborsky, B. (2021). The serotonin 1A receptor modulates the social behaviour within groups of a cooperatively-breeding cichlid. Horm. Behav., 129, 104918. Classified as ‘Among the most downloaded papers’ of Horm, Behav., 1st May, 2021 [pdf]

Antunes, D.F., Reyes-Contreras, M., Glauser, G. & Taborsky, B. (2021). Early social experience has life-long effects on baseline but not stress-induced cortisol levels in a cooperatively breeding fish. Horm. Behav., 128, 104910 [pdf]

Taborsky, B., English, S., Fawcett, T.W., Kuijper, B., Leimar, O., McNamara, J.M., Ruuskanen, S. & Sandi, C. 2021. Towards an evolutionary theory of stress responses. Trends. Ecol. Evol. 36, 39-48 [pdf]

Antunes, D., Taborsky, B. 2020. Early social and ecological experience triggers divergent reproductive investment strategies in a cooperative breeder. Sci. Rep. 10, 10407 [pdf]

Nyman, C., Herbert, F. O., Bessert-Nettelbeck, M., Aubin-Horth, N., Taborsky, B. (2020). Transcriptomic signatures of social experience during early development in a highly social cichlid fish. Mol. Ecol. 29, 610-623 [pdf]

Watve, M., Taborsky, B. (2019). Presence of parents during early rearing affects offspring responses towards predators. Anim. Behav. 158, 239-247 [pdf]

Watve, M., Prati, S., Taborsky, B. (2019) Simulating more realistic predation threat using attack playbacks. PeerJ 7, e8149 [pdf]

Kasper, C., Schreier, T. & Taborsky B. (2019) Heritabilities, social environment effects and genetic correlations of social behaviours in a cooperatively breeding vertebrate. J. Evol. Biol. 32, 955-973 [pdf]

Reyes-Contreras, M., Glauser, G., Rennison, D. J., Taborsky B. (2019). Early-life manipulation of cortisol and its receptor alters stress axis programming and social competence. Phil. Trans. Roy. Soc. B 374, 20180119 [pdf]

Kasper, C., François-Olivier Hébert, F.-O., Aubin-Horth, N. & Taborsky, B. (2018) Divergent brain gene expression profiles between alternative behavioural helper types in a cooperative breeder. Mol. Ecol. 4136-4151 [pdf] [SuppMat]

Kasper, C., Aubin-Horth, N. & Taborsky, B. (2018) Brain activation patterns following a cooperation opportunity in a highly social cichlid fish. Physiology & Behavior 195, 37-47 [pdf]

Taborsky, B., Heino, M. and Dieckmann, U. (2018). Life-history multistability caused by size-dependent mortality. Amer. Nat. 192, 62-71 [pdf]

Nyman, C., Fischer, S., Aubin-Horth, N. and Taborsky, B. (2018). Evolutionary conserved neural signature of early life stress affects animal social competence. Proc. R. Soc. B 285, 20172344 [pdf]

Fischer, S., Bohn, L., Oberhummer, E., Wikström, C. & Taborsky, B. (2017) Divergence of developmental trajectories is triggered interactively by early social and ecological experience in a cooperative breeder. PNAS, 114, E9300-9307 [pdf]

Kasper, C., Kölliker, M., Postma, E., Taborsky, B. (2017): Consistent cooperation in a cichlid fish is caused by maternal and developmental effects rather than heritable genetic variation. Proc. R. Soc. B. 284:20170369 [pdf]

Kasper, C., Vierbuchen, M., Ernst, U., Fischer, S., Radersma, R., Raulo, A., Cunha-Saraiva, F., Wu, M., Mobley, K., Taborsky, B. (2017): Genetics and developmental biology of cooperation. Mol. Ecol. 26:4364-4377 [pdf]

Fischer, S., Oberhummer, E., Cunha Saraiva, F., Gerber, N. & Taborsky, B. (2017) Smell or vision? The use of different sensory modalities in predator discrimination. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 71:143 [pdf]

Bannier, F. Tebbich, S. & Taborsky, B. (2017): Early experience affects learning performance and neophobia in a cooperatively breeding cichlid. Ethology 123:712-723 [pdf]

Nyman, C., Fischer, S., Aubin-Horth, N., Taborsky, B. (2017): Effect of the early social environment on behavioural and genomic responses to a social challenge in a cooperatively breeding vertebrate. Mol. Ecol. 26:3186–3203 [pdf]

Taborsky, B. (2017): Developmental plasticity: Preparing for life in a complex world. In:  M. Naguib, J. Podos, L. W. Simmons, L. Barrett, S. Healy, & M. Zuk (Eds.), Adv. Stud. Behav. (pp. 49–99) [pdf]

Taborsky, B. (2016) Opening the black box of developmental experiments: behavioural mechanisms underlying long-term effects of early social experience. Ethology 122:267–283 [pdf]

Hess, S., Fischer, S., Taborsky, B. (2016) Territorial aggression reduces vigilance but increases aggression towards predators in a cooperatively breeding fish. Anim. Behav. 113:229-235 [pdf]

Groothuis, T.G.G., Taborsky, B. (2015) Introducing biological realism into the study of developmental plasticity in behaviour. Front. Zool. 12:S6 [pdf

Taborsky, M., Taborsky, B. (2015) Evolution of genetic and physiological mechanisms of cooperative behaviour. Curr. Op. Behav. Sci. 6:132–138 [pdf

Fischer, S., Bessert-Nettelbeck, M., Kotrschal, A & Taborsky, B. (2015): Rearing group size determines social competence and brain structure in a cooperatively breeding cichlid. Amer. Nat. 186:123–140 [pdFischer, S., Taborsky, B., Burlaud, R., Fernandez, A.A., Hess, S. & Oberhummer, E. (2014): Animated images as a tool to study visual communication - a case study in a cooperatively breeding cichlid. Behaviour 151:1921-1942 [pdf]

Fischer S, Zöttl M, Groenewoud F &⁞ Taborsky B (2014): Group-size-dependent punishment of idle subordinates in a cooperative breeder where helpers pay to stay. Proc. Roy. Soc. B 281:20140184 [pdf

Taborsky, B., Guyer, L. & Demus, P. (2014): ‘Prudent habitat choice’: a novel mechanism of size-assortative mating. J. Evol Biol. 27:1217-1228 [pdf]

Stratmann, A. & Taborsky, B. (2014): Antipredator defences of young are independently determined by genetic inheritance, maternal effects and own early experience in mouthbrooding cichlids. Funct. Ecol., 28:944-953 [pdf]

Kotrschal, A., Szidat, S. & Taborsky, B. (2014): Developmental plasticity of growth and digestive efficiency in dependence of early-life food availability. Funct. Ecol. 28: 878-885 [pdf]

Fischer, B., van Doorn, G. S., Dieckmann, U. & Taborsky, B. (2014): The evolution of age-dependent plasticity. Amer. Nat., 183:108-125 [pdf]

Taborsky, B. & Oliveria, R.F. (2013): Social competence vs responsiveness: similar but not same. A reply to Wolf and McNamara. Trends Ecol. Evol. 28:254-255.[pdf]

Taborsky B., Tschirren L., Meunier C. & Aubin-Horth N. (2013): Stable reprogramming of brain transcription profils by the early social environment in a cooperatively breeding fish. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B 280:20122605 [pdf]

Taborsky B. & Oliveira R.F. (2012): Social competence: an evolutionary approach. Trends Ecol. Evol. 27:679-688 [pdf]

Taborsky B., Heino M. & Dieckmann U. (2012): Size-dependent mortality and competition interactively shape community diversity. Evolution 66-11:3524-3544 [pdf]

Segers F.H.I.D. & Taborsky B. (2012): Competition level determines compensatory growth abilities. Behav. Ecol. 23:665-671 [pdf]

Sefc K., Hermann C., Taborsky B. & Koblmüller S. (2012): Brood mixing and reduced polyandry in a maternal mouthbrooding cichlid with elevated among-breeder relatedness. Molecular Ecology 21:2805-2815 [pdf]

Taborsky B., Arnold C., Junker J. & Tschopp A. (2012): The early social environment affects social competence in a cooperative breeder. Anim. Behav. 83:1067-1074 [pdf]

Kotrschal A., Heckel G., Bonfils D. & Taborsky B. (2012): Life-stage-specific environments in a ciclid fish: implications for inducible maternal effects. Evol. Ecol. 26:123-137 [pdf]

Segers F.H.I.D., Berishvili G. & Taborsky B. (2012): Egg size-dependent expression of growth hormone receptor accompanies compensatory growth in fish. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B 279:592-600 [pdf]

Segers F.H.I.D. & Taborsky B. (2012): Juvenile exposure to predator cues induces a large egg size in fish. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B 279:1241-1248 [pdf]

Kotrschal A., Fischer B. & Taborsky B. (2011): A non-invasive method to determine fat content in small fish with swim bladders. J. Exp. Zool. 315:408-415 [pdf]  

Segers F.H.I.D., Gerber B. & Taborsky B. (2011): Do maternal food deprivation and offspring predator cues interactively affect maternal effort in fish? Ethology 117:708-721 [pdf]

Fischer B., Taborsky B. & Kokko H. (2011): How to balance the offspring quality-quantity trade-off when environmental cues are unreliable. Oikos 120(2):258-270 [pdf]

Fischer B., Dieckmann U. & Taborsky B. (2011): When to store energy in a stochastic environment. Evolution 65:1221-1232 [pdf]

Segers F.H.I.D. & Taborsky B. (2011): Egg size and food abundance interactively affect juvenile growth and behaviour. Funct. Ecol. 25:166-176 [pdf

Kotrschal A. & Taborsky B. (2010): Resource Defence or Exploded Lek? – A Question of Perspective. Ethology 116:1189–1198 [pdf]

Kotrschal A. & Taborsky B. (2010): Environmental Change Enhances Cognitive Abilities in Fish. PloS Biology 8(4):e1000351 [pdf

Arnold C. & Taborsky B (2010): Social experience in early ontogeny has lasting effects on social skills in cooperatively breeding cichlids. Anim. Behav. 79:621–630 [pdf]

Fischer B., Taborsky B. & Dieckmann U. (2009): Unexpected Patterns of Plastic Energy Allocation in Stochastic Environments. Am. Nat. 173(3):E108-120 [pdf]

Taborsky B., Guyer L & Taborsky M. (2009): Size-assortative mating in the absence of mate choice. Anim. Behav. 77:439–448 [pdf]

Moksnes A. et al. (2008): Individual female common cuckoos Cuculus canorus lay constant egg types but egg appearance cannot be used to assign eggs to females. J. Avian Biol. 39:238-241 [pdf

Steinegger M. & Taborsky B. (2007): Asymmetric sexual conflict over parental care in a biparental cichlid. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 61:933-941 [pdf]

Taborsky B., Skubic E. and Bruintjes R. (2007): Mothers adjust egg size to helper number in a cooperatively breeding cichlid. Behav. Ecol. 18:652-657 [pdf

Taborsky B. (2006): Mothers determine offspring size in response to own juvenile growth conditions. Biol. Lett. 2:225-228 [pdf

Taborsky B. (2006): The influence of past and present environments on adult life history decisions. Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B 273:741-750 [pdf, 205 KB]

Schuerch R. & Taborsky B. (2005): The functional significance of buccal feeding in the mouthbrooding cichlid Tropheus moorii . Behaviour 142:265-281 [pdf]

Grueter C. & Taborsky B. (2005): Sex ratio and the sexual conflict about brood care in a biparental mouthbrooder. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 58:44-52 [pdf]

Grueter C. & Taborsky B. (2004): Mouthbrooding and biparental care: an unexpected combination, but male broodcare pays. Anim. Behav. 68:1283-1289 [pdf]

Skjelseth S., Moksnes A., Roskaft E., Gibbs H.L., Taborsky M., Taborsky B., Honza M. & Kleven O. (2004): Parentage, host preference and egg constancy in the common cuckoo Cuculus canorus. J. Avian Biol. 35:21-24 [pdf]

Vogl W., Taborsky B., Taborsky M., Honza M. & Teuschl Y. (2004): Habitat and Space Use of European Cuckoo Females during the Egg Laying Period. Behaviour 141:881-898 [pdf]

Honza M., Taborsky B., Taborsky M., Teuschl Y., Vogl W., Moksnes A. & Roskaft E. (2003): Behaviour of female common cuckoos, Cuculus canorus, in the vicinity of host nests before and during egg laying: a radiotelemetry study. (vol 64, pg 861, 2002). Anim. Behav. 65:1057-1057 [pdf]

Taborsky B., Dieckmann U. & Heino M. (2003):Unexpected discontinuities in life-history evolution under size dependent mortality, Proc. Roy. Soc. Lond. B 270:713-721 [pdf]

Honza M., Taborsky B., Taborsky M., Vogl W., Teuschl Y., Moksnes A. & Roskaft E. (2002): Host nest-inspection and egg-laying of female cuckoos: A radio-telemetry study. Anim. Behav. 64:861-868 [pdf]

Vogl W., Taborsky M., Taborsky B., Teuschl Y., Honza M. (2002): Cuckoo females preferentially use specific habitats when searching for host nests. Anim. Behav. 64:843-850 [pdf]

Taborsky B. (2001): Die Tricks des Parasiten? Wie der Kuckuck seine Wirtsvoegel ueberlistet. Ornis 1/01:9-13 [kein PDF vorhanden]

Taborsky B. (1999): Size-dependent depth distribution in littoral fish: optimization or competitive exclusion. - In: V.C. Almada, R.F. Oliveira & E.J. Goncalves (eds.) "Behaviour and Conservation of Littoral Fishes", 351-376. ISPA, Lisboa. [pdf]

Taborsky B. (1999): The implications of indeterminate growth for life history evolution. Advances in Ethology 34, Supplement to Ethology, 57. [kein PDF voranden]

Taborsky B. & Taborsky M. (1999): The mating system and stability of pairs in kiwi Apteryx spp. J. Avian Biol. 30(2):143-151 [pdf]

Teuschl Y., Taborsky B. & Taborsky M. (1998): How do cuckoos find their hosts? The role of habitat imprinting. Anim. Behav. 56:1425-1433 [pdf]

Taborsky M. & Taborsky B.(eds.; 1997): Advances in Ethology (32) - Contributions to the XXV International Ethological Conference. Supplement to Ethology, 328 pp. [kein PDF vorhanden]

Taborsky B. & Taborsky M. (1995): Habitat Use and Selectivity of Brown Kiwi (Apteryx australis mantelli) in a Patchy Environment. The Auk 112:680-689 [pdf]

Taborsky B.(1995): Wie nutzen Tiere ihr Habitat? Ergebnisse der Verhaltensforschung als Ausgangspunkt fuer Naturschutzmassnahmen. Der Ornithologische Beobachter 92:287-296 [kein PDF vorhanden] 

Taborsky M. & Taborsky B. (1993): Kooperation und Helfen bei Fischen. Praxis der Naturwissenschaften 6/42:26-29 [kein PDF vorhanden]

Taborsky M. & Taborsky B. (1993): The kiwi's parental burden. Natural History 102:50-57 [kein PDF vorhanden]

Taborsky B. & Taborsky M. (1992): Spatial Organization of North Island Brown Kiwi: Sex, Pairing Status and Territoriality. Ibis 134:1-10 [kein PDF vorhanden]

Taborsky B. & Taborsky M. (1991): Social Organization of North Island Brown Kiwi: Long-term Pairs and Three Types of Male Spacing Behaviour. Ethology 89:47-62 [kein PDF vorhanden]