Evolutionary Ecology

Breadcrumb Navigation


Behavioural Ecology

Prof. Dr. Niels Dingemanse

sp_Photo1Our main research focuses on the behavioural ecology of variation in labile phenotypic characters across hierarchical levels. We study primarily variation between and within individuals. Specifically, individual animals of the same population differ both in average (‘animal personality’) and level and plasticity (‘responsiveness’) in labile phenotypic characters such as behaviour and metabolism. We use quantitative genetic tools to investigate the proximate underpinning of sources of between- and within-individual variation in behaviour, and use experimental behavioural ecology approaches to study individual variation from an ultimate perspective. We further develop statistical tools for the analysis of variance components in a hypothesis-testing framework.

Our empirical research is conducted using two main study models, birds and insect.

  1. Our work on birds focusses on the behavioural ecology of individual variation in behaviour in wild great tits Parus major, whose life-history decisions we study in 12 nest box populations around the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology (MPIO) in Seewiesen.
  2. Our work on insects focusses on quantitative genetics and social evolution of behaviour in crickets. As specific models, we study a wild population of field crickets Gryllus campestris at the MPIO in Seewiesen, and a pedigreed laboratory population of southern field crickets Gryllus bimaculatus at the LMU.






For more details on our research at the LMU see the webpage “Research”.


For more details on our research at the MPIO see the webpage “Research Group Dingemanse”.



Dr. Cristina Tuni

Christina Tuni

I am broadly interested in reproductive biology, sexual selection and mating system evolution. Sexual selection is currently undergoing a paradigm shift since the increasing evidence that females seek and engage with more than one mating partner (polyandry) has challenged the traditional concept of choosy and monogamous females. One of my main research interests is to understand the adaptive significance of female promiscuity and male mating strategies in polyandrous mating systems using invertebrates as model organisms, particularly spiders and crickets.

Together with experimental laboratory trials through which I study reproductive behavior and fitness components in polyandrous species I also conduct field studies to assess the ecological factors that may ultimately constrain encounter rates among potential mating partners and affect mating strategies in natural populations.

One of the direct consequences of polyandry is that it allows sexual selection to extend beyond mating in the form of sperm competition and cryptic female choice. Post-mating sexual selection is an important evolutionary force driving an extraordinary diversity of morphological, physiological and behavioral reproductive traits. I apply molecular methods to estimate natural mating rates and paternity patterns, both in the wild and in laboratory experiments, to understand the strength of post-copulatory selection in shaping reproductive traits and its interaction with ecology and life history evolution. I am also particularly interested in understanding the proximate mechanisms underlying fertilization outcome by investigating reproductive tract morphology, the mechanisms of sperm transfer and sperm competition.