Head of Division
Prof. Dr. Michael Taborsky

Institut für Ökologie und Evolution
Telefon: +41 31 631 91 11
Telefax: +41 31 631 91 41
E-Mail:   claudia.leiser@iee.unibe.ch

Ethologische Station Hasli
Wohlenstrasse 50a
CH-3032 Hinterkappelen

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Universität Bern


SCIENCE ADVANCES Alternative male morphs solve sperm performance/longevity trade-off in opposite directions M. Taborsky, D. Schütz, O. Goffinet & G.S.van Doorn


Media release, University of Bern


Reciprocal trading of different commodities in Norway rats. M.K. Schweinfurth & M. Taborsky

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Nature research highlight
Current Biology dispatch

PNAS - Divergence of developmental trajectories is triggered interactively by early social and ecological experience in a cooperative breeder. Fischer, Bohn, Oberhummer, Nyman & B. Taborsky
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commentary on Fischer et al

PNAS - Predation risk drives social complexity in cooperative breeders. Groenewoud, Frommen, Josi, Tanaka, Jungwirth & Taborsky
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The evolution of cooperation based on direct fitness benefits. Phil Trans theme issue compiled and edited by Taborsky M., Frommen JG & Riehl C. (2016)
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NATURE COMMUNICATIONS Kinship reduces alloparental care in cooperative cichlids where helpers pay-to-stay
Zoettl M., Heg D., Chervet N. & Taborsky M. (2013)

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Social competence: an evolutionary approach
Taborsky, B. & Oliveira, R.F.
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Larval helpers and age polyethism in ambrosia beetles
Biedermann P.H.W. & Taborsky M.
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Animal personality due to social niche specialisation
Bergmueller R. & Taborsky M.
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Environmental Change Enhances Cognitive Abilities in Fish
Kotrschal, A. & Taborsky, B.
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Extended phenotypes as signals
Franziska C. Schaedelin and Michael Taborsky
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On the Origin of Species by Natural and Sexual Selection
G. Sander van Doorn, Pim Edelaar, Franz J. Weissing
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Cambridge University Press
Alternative Reproductive Tactics: An Integrative

Oliveira R., Taborsky M. & Brockmann H.J.
more information

Jan Naef



Email: jan.naef[at]iee.unibe.ch

Phone: +41 (0)31 631 9155

Research Interests

My main interest has long been in the origin and spread of innovations in humans - in my opinion the pinnacle of social behavior. This has motivated me to explore four different fields associated with human behavior during my undergraduate studies: I have a MSc in behavioural biology and minors in psychology, economics, and philosophy of mind.

For my PhD, i have chosen to investigate the evolution of social behavior in fishes. I have found an ideal position to do so as a student of Michael Taborsky at the University of Bern. We use lamprologine cichlids, endemic to lake Tanganyika in Africa, as a model system. This tribe contains species that exhibit the highest level of sociality in fishes, and show traits reminiscent of primate groups. In particular, unrelated individuals of these species engage in trade - the reciprocal exchange of different commodities and services. This system allows me to investigate the cognitive prerequisites for trade, a phenomenon that has been thought to be restricted to highly related groups (e.g. eusocial insects) and higher vertebrate taxa.

I work with Neolamprologus pulcher, the best studied species of this tribe. In this species, unrelated subordinates trade alloparental care for the right to stay in the territory of dominants, and such groups may exhibit division of labour reminiscent of eusocial insects. The investment of subordinates involves a wide range of behaviors: digging sand out of the dominants' breeding shelter, cleaning their eggs, and defending the territory against a wide range of intruders. I currently investigate how dominants can assess the investment of each subordinate, despite this variety in behaviors that constitute this investment.

I also have started several side-projects during my work in Bern: I built novel operant conditioning devices for fish, which allow us to adapt concepts and methods from cognitive psychology to the study of fishes. I am collaborating with Paolo Fonseca from the University of Lisbon to investigate accoustic communication in N. pulcher, a hitherto neglected topic in cooperatively breeding fish. I also strive to increase the quality of behavioral observations by compiling video ethograms for training purposes, and to increase the speed of behavioral data collection (one of the maior bottlenecks in our business) through community-based approaches.

In my research, i strive to combine a sophisticated technical approach for my experiments, classical behavioral observations, and an interdisciplinary stance regarding theory. I have also become increasingly interested in the economical structures of research institutes. I try to apply findings from industrial and organizational psychology to increase productivity and well-being at our institute. Based on this interest and my flair for technical contrivances, my plan B for after this PhD is to found a company that provides economical, work-psychological and technical consulting to research institutes. However, my main goal is to continue as an interdisciplinary researcher of social behavior and to further the integration of biological, psychological and economical research.

Due to my long engagement in engineering projects, I like to think of experiments as a kind of machine whose purpose it is to extract information from the environment. A scientist is a person who lives from the design and marketing of such machines and their output.

Curriculum Vitae

Since 2016 Phd student at the Department of Behavioural Ecology, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, Switzerland. (Supervisors: Prof. Michael Taborsky)
2016 Scientific Assistant at the Swiss Ornithological Institute
2014-2016 Scientific Assistant at the Institute of Neuroinformatics, ETH Zürich
2014 Civil Service at EAWAG, Kastanienbaum
2013-2014 BSc minor in Philosophy of Mind, UniBern
2012-2014 BSc minor in Economics, UniBern (not finished)
2011-2013 BSc minor in Psychology, UniBern
2010-2011 Radiotelemetry technician at the Swiss Ornithological Institute
2009-2010 Civil Service with Stingless Bees in Brazil
2007-2009 MSc in Ecology and Evolution at UniBern
2006-2007 Erasmus exchange at Uppsala Universtiy, Sweden
2004-2007 BSc in cellular and molecular biology at UniBern
2003-2004 Studies in electrical engineering at ETH Zürich


Neumann, P., Naef, J., Crailsheim, K., Crewe, R. M., & Pirk, C. W. W. (2015). Hit-and-run trophallaxis of small hive beetles. Ecology and Evolution, 5(23), 5478–5486.


2008: SCNAT Travel grant for field work in South Africa