Animal Evolutionary Ecology



19 Oct 2016Phylogenetic patterns of red fluorescence in fish propose adaptive function
Red fluorescent colour patterns are widespread among benthic marine fish, but the adaptive function of these patterns largely remains elusive to date. In this new work, Nils Anthes, Jenny Theobald and coworkers (Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution) first desribe the diversity of fluorescent colour patterns across marine fishes, and second, test whether their phylogenetic distribution is consistent with several proposed adaptive functions. The available data are consistent with the idea that fluorescence contributes to camouflage, may be involved in active photolocation, and plays a role in sexual signalling.
23 Sep 2016Infection status but not paternity determine filial cannibalism
Martin Vallon et al. (Ecology and Evolution) study the evolutionary conundrum that brood-caring male fish routinely eat their own young. According to their new work egg cannibalism specifically targeted mould-infected eggs, while males could not distinguish eggs sired by themselves vs. sneaker-males.

17 Mar 2016The visual system of fairy wrasses is sensitive to their own fluorescence

New work by Tobias Gerlach, Nico Michiels and colleagues, published in Frontiers in Zoology, provides a further significant step forward in our understanding of the adaptive role of red fluorescence in marine fishes. The new study first describes the spectral variation in fluorescent patterns in 13 species of pseudocheilinid wrasses. Second, microspectromety of the visual pigments in the model species Cirrhilabrus solorenis reveals possible trichromacy. The study indicates that the visual system of these wrasses is capable to perceive long-wavelength signals that match the emission of their own red fluorescent pigments, thus complementing earlier studies showing a behavioural response to long wavelength stimuli.

09 Mar 2016Size and nest quality, not personality, affect female choice in gobies
In many fish with male parental care, fathers occasionally eat some of their. Recent work showed that this cannibalistic behavioure is associated with individual "temperament" as captured in animal personality. In this new work, Nadine Kalb and colleagues investigated whether females of common gobies prefer males of a given personality. While personality affected male abilities to monopolize a rare nesting structure, female choice did not respond to personality. Yet, the study found consistent female choice for males of larger size and with more elaborate nest sites. This contributes to a growing body of research understanding the interactions between personality, mate choice and reproductive success in a growing number of animal systems.
19 Feb 2016Marine fish enhance iris fluorescence under dim light
A recent study by Ulrike Harant and co-workers demonstrates that the consistent difference in fluorescence brightness across a 15 m depth gradient reported earlier for several marine fish is mediated by the brightness but not the spectral composition of the ambient light. Fish increased the brightness of their red fluorescent iris significantly when held in dim light and decreased it under bright light conditions. Red fluorescence is therefore not only phenotypically flexible but can also be regulated and fine-tuned in a matter of days. This quick adjustment of fluorescence brightness at a microhabitat scales adds to recent evidence supporing an adaptive function of fluorescence in marine fish.
18 Feb 2016Patterns of sexual selection in the animal kingdom consistent with Darwin’s theory

The primordial characteristic distinguishing males and females – their often substantial size difference in sperm versus egg cells – has long been considered key to understanding the apparent male-bias in mate competition. Recent theory, however, has challenged this view, predicting that sex differences in sexual selection were rather dictated by environmental and social factors. Ines Häderer, Nils Anthes and colleagues now contrasted these predictions in a meta analysis (Science Advances), confirming the Darwinian paradigm of stronger sexual selection on males among animals. Modifications including a complete sex role reversal may occur, though, in very specific breeding systems.
Press releases in German and English.
Recommended at Faculty of 1000-Prime.

10 Feb 2016Selective filial cannibalism based on egg age
New work by Martin Vallon and Katja Heubel in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology shows that male common gobies, Pomatoschistus microps, do not cannibalize their offspring at random but rather selectively remove eggs of a certain phenotype. Specifically, males cannibalize the younger eggs when caring for mixed-age broods. By focussing on such less-developed offspring with lower reproductive value parents may reduce the cost of filial cannibalism.
Press releases in German and English.
01 Feb 2016Filial cannibalism represents intrinsic male trait
Filial cannibalism, where caring parents eat some or even all of their young, still represents an evolutionary puzzle. A new study by Martin Vallon and colleagues, published in Ecology and Evolution, now shows that this apparently maladaptive behaviour is correlated with overall male activity in a small benthic fish. This indicates that - at least to some degree - cannibalism may be part of a behavioural syndrome, so that male fish cannot fully adjust this behaviour to the adaptive optimum.
05 Mar 2015Triplefins can see their own red fluorescence
Previous work on the biological relevance of fluorescent colour patterns in marine fish relied on the assumption that the investigated fish are capable to perceive their own long wavelength fluorescence. In this study, Nadine Kalb, Ralf Schneider and colleagues for the first time use a training paradigm to demonstrate that a small cryptic Mediterranean fish, Tripterygion delaisi, can indeed discriminate fluorescent colour hues that match its own fluorescence.
01-03 Mar 20151st European Conference on Scientific Diving
Three researchers from our group attend the 1st European Conference on Scientific Diving (ECSD) held at Stuttgart University. The conference focuses on technical aspects of scientific diving as applied in biological, geological or archaeologial work. We present corresponding information - plus some novel findings - in the context of red fluorescence.
22 Oct 2014Female- rather than male-driven sexual coevolution?

Sexual selection is considered a driving force of trait diversification in males and females. Typically they underlying trait dynamics are thought to be driven by males that evoke counter-adaptations in female.


A new experimental study on sexual trait co-evolution in nematodes questions this paradigm. Karoline Fritzsche, Nadine Timmermeyer and co-workers found  that relaxed versus elevated selection pressures stimulated female but not male traits to evolve. (published today in Proceedings of the Royal Society B)

13 September 201414th "Tropical Marine Ecology" course in Egypt

A student group lead by Melissa Meadows and Ulrike Harant just returned from this summer's field course "Tropical Marine Ecology" at the Red Sea in Egypt. 


For more than 10 years now, this course has offered hands-on experience in Marine Ecology, the diversity of coral reef organisms, and in particular the planning and conduction of hypothesis-driven field experiments in small teams.


Lots of fun guaranteed!

11 September 2014Congratulations!
Tobias Gerlach successfully defended his PhD thesis on the visual ecology of deep red fluorescence in fairy wrasses.
09 September 2014A meta-analysis of the strength and nature of cytoplasmic genetic effects
Conducting a formal meta-analysis (Journal of Evolutionary Biology), Ralph Dobler and co-authors confirmed that cytoplasmic genetic variation is commonly tied to phenotypic expression across animals and plants. Furthermore, their results show that cytoplasmic effects tied to epistatic interactions with the nuclear genome tend to be stronger than additive cytoplasmic effects. This indicates that the cytoplasmic-nuclear interaction is a key unit on which natural selection acts.
22 August 2014Group day out
This year's day out of the Animal Evolutionary Ecology group led us to the picturesque village of Haigerloch at the Swabian Alb foothills. Core event: a visit to the small but very intriguing 'Atomic Cellar' museum.
16 July 2014More intense fluorescence at depth supports visual rather than UV-protective function
A recent study by Melissa Meadows and co-workers (Proceedings B) demonstrates that 6 out of 8 measured reef fish species show brighter red fluorescence when caught at depths devoid of ambient red sunlight compared to shallow sun-exposed habitats that offer full spectral ambient light. This findings is in line with the idea that red fluorescence primarily serves a visual or communicative function (then more relevant in deep water), but contradicts the alternative propostion that fluorescence may primarily serve UV-protection (then more relevant in shallow water).
28 May 2014Red fluoresence mediates male-male aggression.

New work by Tobias Gerlach and colleagues (Proceedings of the Royal Society of London) provides first evidence for the functional significance of red fluorescence in marine fish, using the Indopacific Fairy wrasse Cirrhilabrus solorensis. Their finding represents a key step in understanding why many fish possess red fluorescent pigments in an environment that is almost entirely devoid of red light.

The role of red light is not restricted to this single species of fish. A second recent study led by Christoph Braun (Marine Ecology Progress Series) indicates that red colour signals also play a role in agonistic interactions in the Mediterranean wrasse Coris julis.
24-28 Feb 2014A workshop on advanced mixed modelling and GLMM in R ...
... is hosted by the Animal Evolutionary Ecology group (Nils Anthes, Katja Heubel, Ines Häderer). Funded via the excellence initiative ("Zukunftskonzept" of the University of Tübingen), the biostatistics company Oikostat (Switzerland) provides an in depth introduction to the modelling and analyses of complex evolutionary and ecological datasets.
18 Feb 2014Body size affects the depletion of selfsperm stores ...

... in sea slugs, Chelidonura sandrana. With larger individuals depleting at a faster rate than small ones, male mating decisions may be more body size-dependent than previously thought.(Anthes, Werminghausen & Lange, Behavioural Ecol. and Sociobiol., 2014)

8 Jan 2014Chromatophore units actively control fluorescence ...
... in the eye ring of marine triplefins, Tripterygion delaisi. This finding by Matthias Wucherer and Nico Michiels (Frontiers in Zoology 11: 1) is in line with presumed functions of fluorescence in a commmunication or foraging context.
13 Nov 2013Cephalo-traumatic mating ...
... in Siphopteron sea-slugs described in new publication by Rolanda Lange et al. in Proceedings B: Biological Sciences.
15 Oct 2013Winter school on mixed models and GLMM in R ...
... is open for application until 31 Oct 2013. Check details on our accompanying website.
15 Sep 2013Sex und Evolution: Spermien-handelnde Meeresschnecken ...
... als überlebensgroße Modelle bei der Ausstellung "Sex und Evolution" am Naturkundemuseum Münster.
28 May 2013News feature on traumatic mating...
... in Spektrum der Wissenschaft online.
08 May 2013New publication
Lange, R. , J. Werminghausen, N. Anthes (2013): Does traumatic secretion transfer manipulate mating roles or reproductive output in a hermaphroditic sea slug? Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol., in press. 
30 Apr 2013New publication

Johanna Werminghausen, Rolanda Lange, Nils Anthes (2013): Seeking a Sex-Specific Coolidge Effect in a Simultaneous Hermaphrodite. Ethology, in press

04 Feb 2013PhD defence
Bea Sanchez Navarro successfully defended her PhD thesis on population genetic signatures and fitness corollaries of occasional sex in otherwise parthenogenetic flatworms. Congratulations!!
30 Jan 2013New Publication

Lange, R., K. Reinhardt, N.K. Michiels & N.Anthes (2013). Functions, diversity, and evolution of traumatic mating. Biological Reviews: in press.

08 Jan 2013Promotionsfeier
Rolanda Lange verteidigt erfolgreich ihre Dissertation mit dem Titel "Evolutionary Ecology of Traumatic Mating in Gastropterid Sea Slugs"

02 Jan

New Publication
Seidel C and Reinhardt K (2013) Bugging Forecast: Unknown Disliked Occasionally Intimate. Bed Bugs in Germany Meet Unprepared People. PLoS ONE 8(1):e51083 link: (
17 Sep 2012New Publication

Lange R et al. (2012): Female Fitness Optimum at Intermediate Mating Rates under Traumatic Mating. PLoS One 7(8): e43234.

Featured in New Scientist.

12 Jul  2012

Nature Research Highlight
The recent article by Sprenger et al. got featured in NATURE
28 Jun 2012New publication

Wucherer MF, Michiels NK (2012):A fluorescent chromatophore changes the level of fluorescence in a reef fish. PLoS ONE 7(6): e37913

24 May 2012New publication

Sprenger, D., Dingemanse, N.J., Dochtermann, N.A., Theobald, J., Walker, S.P.W. (2012) Aggressive females become aggressive males in a sex-changing reef fish. Ecology Letters 15(9):986-992

21 May 2012New publication
Ribou, A.-C. & Reinhardt, K. (2012). Reduced metabolic rate and oxygen radicals production in stored insect sperm. Proc. R. Soc. B 279: 2196-2203
02 May 2012New publication
Gassner, P., D. Sprenger & N. Anthes (2012): Red Sea butterflyfish responds to changing coral cover. Biodiv. Science 6 (Apr 2012).
08 Mar 2012New publication

Schulte, R.D., B. Hasert, C. Makus, N.K. Michiels, H. Schulenburg (2012): Increased responsiveness in feeding behaviour of Caenorhabditis elegans after experimental coevolution with its microparasite Bacillus thuringiensis. Biol. Lett. 8:234-236

03 Jan 2012New publication
Lange, R., J. Beninde, V. Reichel, J. Werminghausen, T. Gerlach & N. Anthes (2012, in press): Copulation duration does not predict sperm transfer in a marine hermaphrodite. Animal Behaviour
10 Aug 2011

New publication

Rebecca D. Schulte, Carsten Makus, Barbara Hasert, Nico K. Michiels, and Hinrich Schulenburg (2011): Host-parasite local adaptation after experimental coevolution of Caenorhabditis elegans and its microparasite Bacillus thuringiensis. Proc R Soc B 278: 2832-2839.

01 Aug 2011New publication
Dobler, R. & Kölliker, M., in press, Influence of weight asymmetry and kinship on siblicidal and cannibalistic behaviour in earwigs, Animal Behaviour
07 Jul 2011New publication
Reinhardt, K., Naylor, R. & Siva-Jothy, M. T. (2011) Male mating rate is constrained by seminal fluid availability in bed bugs, Cimex lectularius. PLoS ONE 6:7e22082.
20 Apr 2011New publication
Sprenger, D., R. Lange & N. Anthes (2011). Population density and group size effects on reproductive behavior in a simultaneous hermaphrodite. BMC Evol. Biol. 11: 107
10 Jan 2011ESEB Congress 2011 - Registration and Abstract submission open.
05 Aug 2010New publication

Anthes, N., P. David, D. Sprenger et al. (2010). Bateman Gradients in Hermaphrodites: An Extended Approach to Quantify Sexual Selection. The American Naturalist 176:249-263 [full text]

19 Apr 2010New publication

Schleicherova D, Lorenzi MC, Sella G, Michiels NK (2010):
Gender expression and group size: a test in a hermaphroditic and a gonochoric congeneric species of Ophryotrocha (Polychaeta) J Exp Biol 213, 1586-1590 [full text]

06 Apr 2010New publication
Schulte RD, Makus C, Hasert B, Michiels NK, Schulenburg H (2010) Multiple reciprocal adaptations and rapid genetic change upon experimental coevolution of an animal host and its microbial parasite. PNAS (online before print) [full text]
06 Apr 2010New publication
Anthes, N. (2010): Mate choice and reproductive conflict in simultaneous hermaphrodites. In: P.M. Kappeler (ed) Animal Behaviour: Evolution and Mechanisms. Springer Verlag, pp. 329-358.
15 Mar 2010New publication
Siebeck, U. E., D. Sprenger et al. 2010. A Species of Reef Fish that Uses Ultraviolet Patterns for Covert Face Recognition. Current Biology 20:407-410. [full text]
19 Feb 2010New publication

Velavan, T.P., et al. (2010): Detection of multiple infections by Monocystis strains in a single earthworm host using ribosomal internal transcribed spacer sequence variation. Parasitology 137: 45-51 [full text]
05 Feb 2010New publication
Sprenger, D., et al. (2010): Sources of phenotypic variance in egg and larval traits in a marine invertebrate. Evolutionary Ecology 24: 185-194 [full text
01 Feb 2010Updated information on SoSe 2010
22 Oct 2009New website.
Our website moved again. Welcome to typo3. Report all mistakes you may find to Gregor.
22 Oct 2009New Publication
Sánchez Navarro, Michiels, Köhler and D’Souza (2009): Differential expression of heat shock protein 70 in relation to stress type in the flatworm Schmidtea polychroa (link)
20 Oct 2009New Publication
 Häderer, Werminghausen et al. (2009): No effect of mate novelty on sexual motivation in the freshwater snail Biomphalaria glabrataFront. Zool. 6:23  (free full text)
14 Sep 2009New Publication

D'Souza & Michiels (2009): Sex in Parthenogenetic Planarians: Phylogenetic Relic or Evolutionary Resurrection? In: Schön, Koen, van Dijk (eds): Lost Sex - The Evolutionary Biology of Parthenogenesis, Springer pp. 377-397 (link)

15 Jul 2009New Publication
 Michiels, Crowley, Anthes (2009): Accessory male investment can undermine the evolutionary stability of simultaneous hermaphroditism. Biol. Lett., in press. [FREE full text]
13 Jul 2009DFG Reinhard Koselleck Project
 The DFG awarded a 1 Million € risk project to Nico Michiels to study the function and mechanisms of red fluorescence in reef fish during the next 5 years. More to come.
24 Jun 2009New Publication
 Bedhomme et al. (2009): How does breeding system variation modulate sexual antagonism? Biol. Lett. in press (full text)
14 Apr 2009New Publication
 Sprenger et al. (2009b): Sources of phenotypic variance in egg and larval traits in a marine invertebrate. Evol. Ecol. in press (full text)
03 Apr 2009Darwin Rocks! Video Released
 Watch the vieo on
02.04.2009New Publication
 Sprenger et al. (2009a): The role of body size in early mating behavior in a simultaneous hermaphrodite, Chelidonura sandranaBehav. Eco. Sociobiol. 63: 953-958. (full text)
15 Feb 2009New research project

German Science Foundation (DFG) has approved funding of a 3-year research project entitled "Evolutionary ecology of sexual reciprocity in a system with complex genitalia and traumatic injections". More info on our research pages.
22 Oct 2008Launch of the new  website
 This will be our new website. Welcom to Fiona!
16 Sep 2008New Publication
 Michiels et al. (2008): Red fluorescence in reef fish: A novel signalling mechanism? (BMC-Ecology, Volume 8)Open Access
09 Jun 2008New Publication
 Dennis Sprenger et al. (2008): Natural female mating rate maximizes hatchling size in a marine invertebrate. J. Animal Ecol. 77: 696-701. (full text)
19 Apr 2008New Publication
  Schulenburg, Boehnisch (2008)  Diversification and adaptive sequence evolution of Caenorhabditis lysozymes (Nematoda: Rhabditidae). BMC-Evol. Biol.(full text)
10 Apr 2008New Publication
 Schulenburg et al. (2008) Specificity of the innate immune system and diversity of C-type lectin domain (CTLD) proteins in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Immunobiol. 213:237-250. (full text)


Find all our publications here.