The Evolution of Social Behaviour

Symposium, 9-11 September 2021, Bern, Switzerland

About the Symposium

The evolution of social behaviour has been a core research topic of Michael Taborsky throughout his scientific career. On occasion of his retirement we bring together leading experts in this field and many of Michael’s former PhD-students and postdocs, on the one hand to take stock of the subject and on the other hand to highlight the diversity of research themes former collaborators have meanwhile adopted.

Foto Prof. Michael Taborsky


On the evening of the arrival day, Thursday September 9th 2021, Michael will submit his own view of the topic, which will be followed by a reception in town. On Friday September 10th the invited keynote speakers and former collaborators will present their research, with ample time and opportunity for discussion. In the evening we shall have a BBQ at the Hasli for a relaxing get-together and, weather allowing, for the possibility of dip in the river Aare. On Saturday September 11th we shall move to the nearby mountains for a stimulating hike, lively discussions and staggering views.

Keynote Speakers

Prof. Mike Cant, University of Exeter, UK

Prof. Gerry Carter, Ohio State University, USA

Prof. Jan Komdeur, University of Groningen, Netherlands

Prof. Rui Oliveira, ISPA and Gulbekian Institute, Portugal

Prof. Geoff Parker, University of Liverpool, UK

Prof. Christina Riehl, Princeton University, USA

Prof. Dustin Rubenstein, Columbia University, USA


Preliminary Program


Thursday, 9 September

18:00 Michael Taborsky The evolution of social behaviour
19:30 Reception

Friday, 10 September

08:50-09:00 Welcome address
09:00-09:30 Cristina Riehl Cooperative and manipulative behaviors as alternative reproductive tactics: evolutionary dynamics and modes of selection
09:30-10:00 Dustin Rubenstein Climate and Cooperative Breeding: From Individuals to Groups
10:00-10:15 Jo Frommen Ecological drivers of phenotypic variation in a highly social fish
10:15-10:30 Manon Schweinfurth Reciprocal help in non-human primates
Coffee Break
11:00-11:30 Rui Oliveira Of fish and flies: using model organisms to uncover the mechanisms of sociality
11:30-12:00 Gerry Carter How do vampire bats form new cooperative relationships?
12:00-12:15 Markus Zöttl Cooperative breeding in African mole-rats
Sander van Doorn
Unifying proximate and ultimate explanations for consistency in behaviour
12:30-14:00 Lunch Break
14:00-14:30 Jan Komdeur Cooperation and parental senescence
14:30-15:00 Geoffrey Parker The evolution of the two sexes
15:00-15:15 Dolores Schütz Extreme and reversed sexual dimorphisms in fish and spiders
15:15-15:30 Alex Jordan Behavioural evolution in the Tanganyikan cichlid radiation: conserved repertoires are differently expressed across socially divergent species
15:30-15:45 Franziska Schaedelin Is learning performance in Neolamprologus pulcher  influenced by early social experience with heterospecifics?"
15:45-16:00 Peter Biedermann Evolutionary feedbacks between insect sociality and microbial management
16:00-16:30 Coffee Break
16:30-17:00 Mike Cant The return of the group: adaptation and fitness in banded mongoose society
17:00-17:15 Arne Jungwirth Life history evolution in wolpertingers and cichlids
17:15-17:30 Dik Heg Randomized clinical trials in cardiovascular medical research
17:30-17:45 Nicole Bender Human nutrition behaviour and cognition: fish consumption and associations with school performance in children
17:45-18:00 Sabine Tebbich Behavioural changes in a recently established host parasite interaction
18:00-18:15 Sacha Engelhardt Reciprocity in reindeer
18:15-18:30 Barbara Taborsky Developmental plasticity of social behaviour
18:30-18:45 Concluding remarks
19:30 BBQ at the Hasli

Saturday, 11 September

Mountain Excursion



Thursday, September 9, 2021: Gertrud-Wokerstrasse 5, 2nd level

Friday, September 10, 2021: Baltzerstresse 1, 2nd level (“Hallerauditorium”)


Red lines show the way from Bern railway station (choose the exit at the "wave", a wave shaped wooded roof; you reach it by leaving the platforms going UP the stairs; then move uphill along Länggasse) to the venues on Thursday and Friday (10-15 min walk)
Detail map of how to reach the venues


For questions please contact the organizer Barbara Taborsky at