Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior

For animals, too, life means making permanent decisions. Does a blackbird fly south in autumn? And if so, why does it depart on a certain day to a certain place? Or does it resign from the dangerous journey altogether? On which tree does the Kinkajou search for food? Does a group of baboons stay at its current feeding place or does it move on? Decisions of this kind determine an individual’s survival and their probability of having offspring - and often these decisions are made in a group. The scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior ask how animals coordinate themselves. What are the consequences of their actions? How are their movements triggered? The scientists aim to achieve a quantitative and predictive understanding of animal decision-making and movement in the natural world. They pursue a holistic approach and integrate physiological, neural, ecological and evolutionary perspectives, questions and methods into their research. In 2019, the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior emerged from the MPI for Ornithology in Radolfzell. The future location of the Institute will be Konstanz.


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 from lab to field

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


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


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


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


A new study demonstrates for the first time that orangutan mothers are actively involved in their offspring’s skill learning


When animal magnetism meets fatal attraction


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.

A Four-Legged Early-Warning System

Environment & Climate

In many parts of the world, goats are important suppliers of milk, meat and hides. However, Martin Wikelski, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, has very different plans for these modest animals: he wants to use them to predict volcanic eruptions.

Whether birds that crisscross the globe, whales that navigate the vastness of the oceans or wildebeast on the African savannas – the major animal migrations in our world present an incomparable spectacle. Yet in many cases, surprisingly little is known about either their exactdestinations or how they get there. At the Radolfzell observatory of the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Martin Wikelski and his team use miniature transmitters to track a wide variety of species on their travels.

Postdoc (m/f/d) | Quantitative analysis of acoustic communication and collective behavior in animal groups

Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior, Radolfzell / Constance December 09, 2021

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.


Truth or dare: honesty of avian sexual signals

2005 Peters, Anne

Behavioural Biology Ecology

Trade-offs with immunity can theoretically enforce honesty on sexual signals through testosterone, that stimulates sexual traits but also suppresses immunity, and/or carotenoids, that can be used in ornaments or support immune functions. Recently, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology found evidence for such trade-offs in male mallards.

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