In the Division of Behavioural Ecology, we study the evolutionary mechanisms that shape animal behaviour in an ecologically relevant context. Specific research topics include parental decision making, cooperative breeding, parental effects and the development of social behaviour, evolution of complex sociality and cooperation, alternative reproductive tactics strategies, communication networks, cognition, animal personality, and life history strategies. As model systems we currently use Neotropical poison frogs, Cichlid fishes of Lake Tanganyika, Tokay geckos, wild-type Norway rats and ambrosia beetles. We study these animals in the lab as well as in their natural habitat, by combining a diverse set of methodological approaches, including behavioural experiments, ecological manipulations, theoretical modelling, video monitoring, molecular parentage and kinship analyses, gene expression studies, endocrinological manipulations, GIS analyses, and automation of cognitive test designs.
New paper in Funcional Ecology
The environment experienced by an organism can affect the expression of individual traits, such as body shape and behaviour. Such local adaptations might influence sociality on the individual and the population level alike. In a study recently published in Functional Ecology an international team led by IEE MSc-student Annika Freudiger and PI Joachim Frommen show that environmental settings influence the body shape of a cooperatively breeding cichlid fish (Neolamprologus pulcher). These shape differences were heritable and have the potential to feedback on group structure and to mediate the evolution and maintenance of complex social systems.