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

Comparative Social Evolution

Workshop, 24-27 July 2018, Arolla, Switzerland

Organizers: Michael Taborsky and Joachim Frommen, Universitiy of Bern

Workshop topic

The social systems of animals range from loose fission-fusion assemblies such as schools, flocks and herds to closed, stable and highly complex groups. Unveiling the evolution of the vast diversity of social organization in animals is nowadays possible by the application of elaborate comparative approaches, which has provided astounding insight into the probable pathways of social evolution and the importance of ecological factors and biological attributes in several major taxa. This has revealed both general patterns and taxon-specific evolutionary pathways that need further explanation. The success of the comparative approach depends strongly on the quality of information regarding, for instance, the behaviour, sociality and reproduction of animals in natural systems, and on the availability of trustworthy phylogenetic data. It is important to be aware of the potential problems and pitfalls involved in the comparative approach when interpreting results. The aim of this workshop is to bring together evolutionary biologists and ecologists to discuss recent advances in comparative social evolution. This topic is of great general interest for students and researchers alike, as it regards an important avenue toward a deep understanding of the evolution of sociality. Arguably, social organization is one of the most variable, complex, and at the same time still very little understood manifestations of biological evolution.

Workshop program

General schedule: July 24 - Arrival day; July 25 & 26 - Scientific program; July 27 - Excursion to the mountains and departure

The program of the workshop will consist of a combination of plenary talks by invited speakers and work performed in small groups, in which the participants will discuss a particular theme together with one of the invited speakers. The results of these small-group sessions will be presented to the plenum by student participants, followed by a general discussion.


  • Trine Bilde (Aarhus University): Evolution of sociality and inbreeding mating systems - causes and consequences
  • Jacobus Boomsma (University of Copenhagen): Towards understanding transitions in social life from first principles
  • Charlie Cornwallis (Lund University): The evolutionary drivers of cooperative group formation
  • Julia Fischer (German Primate Center): Guinea baboons: a test case for studying the link between social systems, communication and cognition
  • Michael Griesser (Zürich University): Family living: the steppingstone for the evolution of kin cooperation
  • Judith Korb (University of Freiburg): Social evolution in termites: a comprehensive approach from ecology to genomics
  • Dieter Lukas (MPI for Anthropology): Cooperation and conflict in mammals (humans and non)
  • Shinichi Nakagawa (University of new South Wales): How meta-analysis and other methods of research synthesis can help us understand social evolution
  • Dustin Rubenstein (Columbia University): The evolution and structure of complex animal societies

Location and Venue

The symposium will be held in the Grand-Hôtel 'Kurhaus' in a breath-taking scenery amidst some of the finest mountain peaks of Switzerland. The venue is situated above the picturesque mountain village of Arolla, at 2100 m sea level at the core of the High Alps of the Valais. Enjoy the 360° mountain view panorama to be seen from the hotel (just with much less snow in summer!)


Access to Arolla and the Kurhaus: The nearest railway station to Arolla is Sion. From Sion, a bus ("Postauto") goes to Arolla, with one exchange of buses at Les Hauderes (travel time by bus is 1:15 h). On the arrival day and during weekdays, buses leave Sion at 6:57, 8:40, 10:40, 12:50, 14:10, 16:10, and 17:10. On weekdays buses go back to Sion at 8:25, 10:00, 12:10, 15:00, 16:25, and 17:26. You will find the schedules of all trains and buses within Switzerland at the SBB website


1 - 2 ECTS can be obtained, depending on the contribution of the participant. The evaluation will be based on your active participation in discussions and group presentations during the symposium.

Costs for DPEE-participants and reimbursement

Only PhD students registered at the CUSO Doctoral Program in Ecology and Evolution (DPEE), speakers and people organizing the workshop are eligible for reimbursement of incurred travel expense by train (2nd class, half-fare ticket), accomodation and meals. Please see 'Instructions for reimbursement'

Participation of other participants

Please contact Joachim Frommen (joachim.frommen@iee.unibe.ch).


For more information, please contact Michael Taborsky (michael.taborsky@iee.unibe.ch), Joachim Frommen (joachim.frommen@iee.unibe.ch), or Marta Bellone (ecologie-evolution@cuso.ch)


Check out the picture gallery of previous workshops here.