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

How to find us ...

Universität Bern


The smell of hunger: Norway rats provision social partners based on odour cues of need
K. Schneeberger & M. Taborsky



Sensory ecology and cognition in social decisions
Special feature edited by K. Schneeberger & M. Taborsky




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

Melanie Dietz



Email: melanie.dietz@iee.unibe.ch

Phone: +41 31 631 91 28

Research Interest

Rats were, are and always will be one of my favorite animal species to “live” and “work” with, if not “the One”. I was very glad to receive the opportunity with this PhD to investigate more fundamental knowledge of this interesting social animal.

Research at our institute has shown that individual female wild type Norway rats, Rattus norvegicus, differ in their propensity to cooperate in a two-player sequential food-exchange task. They also differ in their "activity", "emotionality" (e.g. anxiety), "sociality" and learning behaviour. These individual differences are part of a larger suite of behavioural syndromes.

In my PhD study (titled "Behavioural and hormonal correlates in Norway rats, Rattus norvegicus") I would like to identify the correlates of cooperative behaviour throughout ontogeny and analyse physiological mechanisms of the propensity to cooperate by experimentally administering the neuropeptide oxytocin. Oxytocin has recently been shown to increase "trustfulness" in humans playing an economic game. Correspondingly, I hypothesize an increase in the "cooperativeness" of my rats when treated with oxytocin.

For more information, please check out the footage produced by the German TV station 3Sat for the famous science program nano at our institute from spring 2009. It gives a very nice insight of my work and introduces the rats and our “cooperation”. The video is in German language.


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Curriculum Vitae


PhD candidate at Behavioural Ecology Department, Institute for Ecology and Evolution, University of Berne

1996 - 2006

Graduation Diplom in life science/biology, University of Hannover, Germany, Diplom thesis “Vocal communication in grey mouse lemurs, Microcebus murinus”. Supported by the Deutsche Forschergruppe (DFG, FOR 499, supervisor Prof. Dr. Elke Zimmermann)


Laboratory practical training

„Female mate choice in grey mouse lemurs, Microcebus murinus“,

supervisor PD Dr. Ute Radespiel, Institute of Zoology, School of Veterinary Medicine Hannover

Talks / Conferences

Sep 2008

Member of the Organizing Committee of the EMPSEB 14 (European Meeting of PhD Students in Evolutionary Biology), Einsiedeln, Switzerland


Jul 2008

“Behavioural and Hormonal Correlates of Cooperation in Norway Rats, Rattus norvegicus --II 4th European Conference on Behavioural Biology, France

Feb 2008

“Behavioural and Hormonal Correlates of Cooperation in Norway Rats, Rattus norvegicus -- I Biology08, Lausanne, Switzerland

Feb 2005

“The effect of arousal on a social call of a nocturnal primate (Microcebus murinus)”; Melanie Dietz, Pia Braune & Elke Zimmermann; Sixth Meeting of the German Neuroscience Society, 30th Göttingen Neurobiology Conference, Göttingen, Germany

Aug 2004

Honourable mention student poster presentation: “Does call structure in a nocturnal primate change with arousal?”; Melanie Dietz & Elke Zimmermann; XX Congress of the International Primatological Society (IPS), Torino, Italy


· “The vocal repertoire of the grey mouse lemur, Microcebus murinus”; Melanie Dietz & Elke Zimmermann (in preparation)

· „Changes in acoustic expression relate to context in an ancestral primate (Microcebus murinus)“; Pia Braune, Melanie Dietz & Elke Zimmermann (in preparation)

· “Behavioural syndromes in Norway Rats (Rattus norvegicus): Correlates of learning, exploration and cooperation?”; Melanie Dietz, Claude Andrist & Michael Taborsky (in preparation)

Personal Information

I have studied biology at the Leibniz University of Hannover, Germany. During my studies I have tried to get insights into different areas of biology besides behavioural ecology including marine biology, immunology and also plant biology.

Besides my diploma thesis I also worked at the Zoological Institute, focussing on vocal communication in the lesser mouse lemur, Microcebus murinus, during confrontation experiments. In this study we investigated the effects of particular arousal states on the vocal morphology of a context-specific call, the trill call used in mating situations, analyzing various acoustic parameters of the trill.

If I happen to have some spare time I like to relax by hanging out with my friends, listening to music, watching crime series, learning Spanish or doing some sports.