Variation in cooperative behaviour, life-histories and individual fitness in Damaraland mole-rat
My main research interest is the evolution and the maintenance of helping and seemingly altruistic behaviour in animals. My interest originates from a deep fascination for animals and in particular for animal behaviour and the attempt to understand why animals and humans behave as they do and which forces and factors shaped the evolution of behaviour.
My approach is explicitly empirical and I use behavioural experiments conducted in natural populations and under controlled laboratory conditions combined with observational studies in the wild. Previously my research included mainly cooperatively breeding species such as meerkats and cichlid fish but I also contributed to research projects on house mice and flycatchers during my studies in Vienna and Sweden.
In my current project I investigate the proximate mechanisms underlying individual variation in cooperative behaviour and their consequences for life-histories and individual fitness in the cooperatively breeding Damaraland mole-rat (Fukomys damarensis). We will study colonies in artificial tunnel systems, which allow detailed behavioural observations and experimental manipulation and study a permanently marked, wild population of mole-rats at the Kuruman River Reserve (Northern Cape, South Africa).