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.

Zebrafish swimming in a school

Virtual Reality experiments have illuminated the rhythmic glue that could keep animals moving in synchrony more

A sumatran orangutan with a wound on his face

Researchers observe a wild orangutan applying a plant with known medicinal properties to a wound, a first for a wild animal more

Four zebra finches sitting on a perch: from left to right, a female, a chick, a male and another female.

Their first vocalizations help young zebra finch males to memorize the songs of adults more

Photo with a nesting box and two blue tits, one of which is flying out while the other is waiting at the nest's entrance hole.

In the absence of older males, young male blue tits have higher mating success with additional females more

four storks flying in the sky

Young animals in particular prefer to move with their conspecifics more

Goat standing on grassy hill with herd

A 45-minute documentary celebrates its TV premiere on ARD more

City birds shy away from risk

Caution helps animals in their dealings with humans more

Learning from conspecifics

Chimpanzees may use social learning to acquire new skills more

Early life adversity leaves long-term signatures in baboon DNA

Study shows multiple pathways connect early life adversity to later life health more

A new paper asks behavioral scientists: how well do you know your animal? more

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Zebrafish swimming in a school

Virtual Reality experiments have illuminated the rhythmic glue that could keep animals moving in synchrony more

A sumatran orangutan with a wound on his face

Researchers observe a wild orangutan applying a plant with known medicinal properties to a wound, a first for a wild animal more

four storks flying in the sky

Young animals in particular prefer to move with their conspecifics more

Goat standing on grassy hill with herd

A 45-minute documentary celebrates its TV premiere on ARD more

City birds shy away from risk

Caution helps animals in their dealings with humans more

Learning from conspecifics

Chimpanzees may use social learning to acquire new skills more

Early life adversity leaves long-term signatures in baboon DNA

Study shows multiple pathways connect early life adversity to later life health more

Do apes have humor?

Great apes playfully tease each other more

three spotted hyenas mobbing a lioness

Strong social relationships make hyenas more likely to team up against lions, even when there’s no obvious benefit 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

shrew

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

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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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