Head of Division
Prof. Dr. Michael Taborsky

Institut für Ökologie und Evolution
Telefon: +41 31 684 91 11
Telefax: +41 31 684 91 41
E-Mail:   claudia.leiser@iee.unibe.ch

Ethologische Station Hasli
Wohlenstrasse 50a
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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

Dr. Karin Schneeberger


Email: karin.schneeberger@iee.unibe.ch

Phone: +41 (0)31 631 9151

Website: www.karinschneeberger.com

Research Interests

I am a wildlife biologist interested in the behavioural and physiological aspects of group living in vertebrates. I consider myself to be somewhat of a “research chimera”, as I use methods from different fields to adress a variation of questions in the framework of evolutionary ecology. Within the last years, I have used a multidisciplinary approach to study factors mediating sociality, such as costs and benefits of reciprocal cooperation in rats , as well as physiological adaptations to costs of group living, such as the immune system of bats. Generally, I investigated how the condition of an individual can be influenced by various factors and eventually signaled to other group members. I aim at combining these two aspects by focusing on the importance of physiological adaptations to group living, as well as signaling of individual quality among conspecifics.

My main questions are:

  • Which informations are used by an individual to decide whether to provide help to an unrelated conspecific or not?
  • Are informations provided by the receiving individuals honest or manipulative?
  • What are the genetic drivers of cooperative behaviour?

I use wild-type Norway rats (Rattus norvegicus) as model species for my projects at the University of Bern.
For the behavioural part, I train the rats to participate in a manual task, during which they can produce food for a partner. The rats are placed in a divided cage with a movable tray in front, which can be pulled towards the cage by the focal rat, resulting in the partner in the adjacent compartment of the cage being able to reach a food. By changing roles, the receiver is given the opportunity to reciprocate the help (direct reciprocity). Using this experimental setup, I am able to investigate both proximate and ultimate mechanisms of reciprocal cooperation. I am currently particularly interested in potential manipulation of helping behaviour by the receiver, as well as in the stability of reciprocal cooperation over time.

As the rats show great individual differences in their propensity to help, I am furthermore interested in whether there is a genetic base for cooperative behaviour. In cooperation with the Dr. Daniel Förster from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (IZW), we investigate differences in six genetic markers that are hypothesised to code for social behaviour in humans.

Curriculum Vitae

Since 2015 Post-Doc at University of Bern, Switzerland, Division of Behavioral Ecology
2013 - 2015 Post-Doc at Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin, Germany, Department of Evolutionary Ecology
2009 - 2013 PhD on "Eco-immunology and oxidative stress of Neotropical bats" at Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research Berlin, Germany, Department of Evolutionary Ecology; Supervisor: PD Dr. Christian Voigt [pdf]
2003 - 2009 MSc student, Department of Behavioral Ecology, University of Bern, Switzerland


17. Schmid, R., Schneeberger, K., Taborsky, M. (2017): Feel good, do good? Disentangling reciprocity from unconditional prosociality. Ethology 00:1-8 [pdf]

16. Schweinfurth, M. K., Neuenschwander, J., Engqvist, L., Schneeberger, K., Rentsch, A. K., Gygax, M., Taborsky, M. (2017): Do female Norway rats form social bonds?. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 71:98 [pdf]

15. Schmid R., Schneeberger K., Taborsky M. (2017) Feel good - do good? Disentangling reciprocity from unconditional prosociality. Ethology, accepted

14. Schweinfurth M. K., Neuenschwander J., Engqvist L., Schneeberger K., Rentsch A. K., Gygax M., Taborsky M. (2017) Do female rats form social bonds? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, accepted

13. Schneeberger K. (2016) Food sharing and nonhuman reciprocal altruism. In: Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science (eds. Weekes-Shackleford V. A., Shackleford T. K.), Springer International Publisher, published online [pdf]

12. Schneeberger K. (2016) Cooperative grooming. In: Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science (eds. Weekes-Shackleford V. A., Shackleford T. K.), Springer International Publisher, published online [pdf]

11. Schneeberger K., Voigt C.C., Müller C., Caspers B. (2016) Multidimensionality of chemical information in male greater sac-winged bats (Saccopteryx bilineata). Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 4: 83 [pdf]

10. Schneeberger K., Voigt C.C. (2015) Zoonotic viruses and conservation of bats. In: Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of bats in a changing world (eds. Voigt, C.C., Kingston, T.). Springer Verlag. [pdf chapter], [pdf, epub whole book]

9. Tian J., Courtiol A., Schneeberger K., Greenwood A., Czirják G.Á. (2015) Circulating white blood cell counts in captive and wild rodents are influenced by body mass rather than testes mass, a correlate of mating promiscuity. Functional Ecology 29: 823-829 [pdf]

8. Schneeberger K., Courtiol A., Czirják G.Á., Voigt C.C. (2014) Immune profile predicts survival and reflects senescence in a small, long-lived mammal, the greater sac-winged bat (Saccopteryx bilineata). PLoS One 9(9): e108268 [pdf]

7. Schneeberger K., Czirják G.Á., Voigt C.C. (2014) Fruvigory is associated with low measures of plasma oxidative stress and high antioxidant concentration in free-ranging bat. Naturwissenschaften 101 (4): 285-290 [pdf]

6. Schneeberger K., Czirják G.Á., Voigt C.C. (2013) Inflammatory challenge increases measures of oxidative stress in a free-ranging, long-lived mammal. Journal of Experimental Biology 216: 4514-4519 [pdf]

5. Voigt C.C., Schneeberger K., Luckner A. (2013) Ecological and dietary correlates of stable hydrogen isotope ratios in fur and body water of syntopic tropical bats. Ecology 94 (2): 346-355 [pdf]

4. Schneeberger K., Czirják G.Á., Voigt C.C. (2013) Measures of the constitutive immune system are linked to diet and roosting habits of neotropical bats. PloS One 8 (1): e54023 [pdf]

3. Schneeberger K., Dietz M., Taborsky M. (2012) Reciprocal cooperation between unrelated rats depends on cost to donor and benefit to recipient. BMC Evolutionary Biology 12 (1): 41 [pdf]

2. Voigt C.C., Voigt‐Heucke S.L., Schneeberger K. (2012) Isotopic data do not support food sharing within large networks of female vampire bats (Desmodus rotundus) Ethology 118 (3): 260-268 [pdf]

1. Voigt C.C., Schneeberger K., Voigt-Heucke S.L., Lewanzik D. (2011) Rain increases the energy cost of bat flight. Biology Letters 7 (5): 793-795 [pdf]