Behavioral Biology

Behavioural biology examines the behaviour of humans and animals and investigates which behaviour is innate and which skills are learned in the course of life. An overview of our research.

Chimpanzees can navigate virtual environments

In search of virtual fruit, chimpanzees used landscape features for better orientation more

Chimpanzees combine calls to form numerous vocal sequences

Evidence of structured vocal sequences in wild chimpanzee communication provides insights into human language evolution more

No time to nap in nature

Sleep study on a troop of wild baboons reveals that sacrificing sleep to meet pressing demands is common—and might even be part of our evolutionary history more

Reacting to a changing environment involves inhibiting previous behavior

Researchers are investigating the cognitive abilities that allow animals to react to a rapidly changing environment more

Sailing in Darwin's wake

Eduardo Sampaio sailed for ten days along a section of the route of the MS Beagle more

Crows keep special tools extra safe

Study suggest that crows have some concept of the relative 'value' of different tool types more

One algorithm to rule decision-making

Researchers uncover a single rule for how animals make spatial decisions while on the move more

Double success

Marietta Auer and Iain Couzin are awarded the Leibniz Prize 2022 of the German Research Foundation DFG more

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Chimpanzees combine calls to form numerous vocal sequences

Evidence of structured vocal sequences in wild chimpanzee communication provides insights into human language evolution more

No time to nap in nature

Sleep study on a troop of wild baboons reveals that sacrificing sleep to meet pressing demands is common—and might even be part of our evolutionary history more

Sailing in Darwin's wake

Eduardo Sampaio sailed for ten days along a section of the route of the MS Beagle more

Crows keep special tools extra safe

Study suggest that crows have some concept of the relative 'value' of different tool types more

One algorithm to rule decision-making

Researchers uncover a single rule for how animals make spatial decisions while on the move more

Double success

Marietta Auer and Iain Couzin are awarded the Leibniz Prize 2022 of the German Research Foundation DFG more

Migratory birds have lighter-colored feathers

As a result, the plumage absorbs less solar energy and thus prevents overheating during long flights. more

Male spiders are attracted by a female like planets orbiting a star

When animal magnetism meets fatal attraction more

New Marshmallow-Test in parrots

African grey parrots may have better self-control than macaws more

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"Fish are not stupid, they're just different!"

Fish are his passion. Alex Jordan wants to know why they do what they do. An interview with the behavioural biologist more

"In my opinion, 'social distancing’ is the wrong term"

The primatologist Roman Wittig explains in this interview, why he prefers to speak in terms of "spatial” rather than “social” distancing, and how virtual (online) meetings can replace real meetings to a certain extent. more

Even chimpanzees and six-year-old infants want to punish antisocial behaviour more

Migration pays off for songbirds

Blackbirds that spend the winter in the south are more likely to survive the cold season than their conspecifics in central Europe more

Chimpanzees fill another’s knowledge gap

Researchers show that vocalizing in chimpanzees is influenced by social cognitive processes more

Chimpanzees and sooty mangabeys interfere with other group members’ relationships

Bystanders monitor and intervene into grooming interactions of their group members if these threaten their own status or social relationships more

Food odour enhances male flies’ attractiveness

When female flies smell their favorite food, they become more receptive to courting males more

Shrews shrink in winter and regrow in spring

The tiny mammals reduce the size of their organs in the winter and can even decrease and rebuild bones more

Icarus lifts off

The Icarus on-board computer, the first component of the global animal observatory system, has gone into space more

Bats anticipate optimal weather conditions

For the common noctule, wind speed, wind direction and air pressure trigger its set off for its summer territories more

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Grey parrots help others to obtain food

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology based at the research station outpost for parrot comparative cognition in the Loro Parque in Tenerife, Spain, have shown that parrots exhibit a high level of social intelligence and cooperativeness. They readily help others, even when there is no immediate opportunity for reciprocation. Moreover, they reciprocate received favours and do not appear jealous, if conspecifics obtain a better reward than themselves. more

Dogs' clever minds

Dogs and humans have been living together for 15,000 years – a long time to get used to each other.  Behavioural biologists at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig are investigating how well the animals have adapted to humans. They discovered that dogs are frequently better at understanding human gestures than other animal species. For example, dogs understand referential gestures, such as pointing, and realise they can get away with doing something forbidden when their owners just happen to be looking elsewhere. more

Bonobos - chimpanzees' gentle cousins

Bonobos - chimpanzees' gentle cousins more

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