Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

For animals, life means making decisions. When does a blackbird depart on its dangerous annual migration? On which tree does a Kinkajou search for food? How does a fish in a school of hundreds decide what to do? Decisions like these determine an individual’s survival and their probability of reproducing. Often these decisions are made in a group. At the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, we aim to achieve a quantitative and predictive understanding of animal decision-making and movement in the natural world. Pursuing an integrative approach, we combine physiological, neural, ecological and evolutionary perspectives, questions and methods.

The Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior is home to three Departments, three Max Planck Research Groups, eight Research Groups, and many professional staff. We are housed in three locations in the greater Konstanz area: Radolfzell, the University of Konstanz, and Bücklestraße in Konstanz. These locations include state-of-the-art facilities for field and laboratory research in animal behavior. A number of external partners and affiliates are associated with the MPIAB, including the Max Planck-Yale Center for Biodiversity Movement and Global Change.


Am Obstberg 1
78315 Radolfzell / Konstanz
Phone: +49 7732 1501-0
Fax: +49 7732 1501-69

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS for Quantitative Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Department Collective Behavior


Department Ecology of Animal Societies


Bats can ramp up heart rate from 6 to 900 beats per minute within minutes

A coati in the forest

Why do primates have big brains? In the Panamanian rainforest, scientists pitted large-brained primates against smaller-brained mammals to find out who was the smartest forager

Zebrafish swimming in a school

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

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

four storks flying in the sky

Young animals in particular prefer to move with their conspecifics

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Iain Couzin, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Constance, and his team want to discover the rules that schools of fish follow as well as the advantages of life in the collective. Cutting-edge technology is helping the researchers to find order amid the chaos.

Baboon troops are famous for sticking together as they traverse the savannah in search of food. For almost a decade, Meg Crofoot, Director at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Konstanz, Germany, has been studying a group of olive baboons in Kenya to understand how they do this – how they overcome their individual differences to band together, make a decision, and move forward as one.

The International Space Station (ISS) orbits the Earth around 16 times a day from an altitude of approximately 400 kilometers; each orbit takes a good 90 minutes. The ISS, which is about the size of a football field and has been manned continually since November 2000, is constantly being converted and expanded – also in the services of science.

Until recently, following the crowd was not seen as a desirable goal in life. These days, however, everyone is talking about swarm intelligence. But are swarms really smarter than individuals? And what rules, if any, do they follow? With the help of new computational techniques, Iain Couzin from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell imposes order on the seeming chaos of swarms.

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Peering into the evolution of social learning 

2023 Schuppli, Caroline

Behavioural Biology Ecology Evolutionary Biology

Even though the evolution of human cognition has remained one of the biggest mysteries in Evolutionary Biology, it is becoming increasingly clear that our ability to learn from other individuals must have played a pivotal role. Our research aims to shed light on how human-like knowledge transmission evolved by studying social learning in one of our closest relatives, the orangutan.


The B10K genome project – a worldwide initiative to sequence the genomes of birds

2017 Kraus, Robert H. S.

Behavioural Biology Ecology Evolutionary Biology

Birds are among the most important animal groups in biological, medical and pharmaceutical sciences. Over the last few years, new technologies have made genome sequencing accessible to a broad user base. The international B10K project is an initiative to sequence the genomes of all bird species. Comparative studies on trait evolution on the genomic level will lead to a far-reaching understanding of biodiversity and connections towards translational research. The Max Planck scientists in Radolfzell participate in this project with comparative studies on the immune system evolution of birds.


Evolution right in our backyard

2012 Partecke, Jesko

Behavioural Biology Ecology Evolutionary Biology Physiology

It is well established that urban areas have been successfully colonized by animals. Less is known about the extent to which urbanization causes ecological and micro-evolutionary changes in animals thriving in urban areas. Studies at the MPIO in Radolfzell elucidate that city life causes changes in behavior and underlying physiological mechanisms and that micro-evolutionary effects may play an important role. Current studies using newest radiotelemetry and micrologger technique aim to discover the impact of artificial city light at night on the daily and seasonal organization of urban animals.


Thin billed prions: “miniature albatrosses” measure climate change in the Southern Ocean

2009 Quillfeldt, Petra; Masello, Juan Francisco

Behavioural Biology Climate Research Ecology

The Southern Ocean is strongly affected by global change. A long-term study of Thin-billed prions, a small seabird feeding on zooplankton in these vast ocean areas, was designed to further our understanding of the changes that currently take place in this ecosytem. Further, this study will look at adaptations that enable the birds to cope with changing conditions, such as flexible provisioning behaviour and physiological regulation of timing and investments in the breeding cycle.


When and where to? On the track of bird movements

2007 Fiedler, Wolfgang

Behavioural Biology Ecology

Individual marking and tracking of birds with inscripted rings at the bird's legs, radio transmitters or other methods is used for the study of the success of individual strategies, demographic benchmarks, the study of bird migration with all it's facetes and the role of birds as vectors for diseases, the long term monitoring of bird populations, the building of survival models, the study of the reaction of birds to climate change and finally the provision of basic data for species conservation.

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