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


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

Claudia Kasper-Völkl



Email: claudia.kasper@iee.unibe.ch

Phone: +41 31 631 9158

Research Interests

Currently I am investigating the genetic basis of a cooperative behaviour in Neolamprologus pulcher, the Princess of Tanganyika. These fish are cooperative breeders, i.e. young do not disperse immediately but stay in their natal territory where they perform certain helping tasks. In my PhD work I aim to find out more about the genetic architecture of some of these behaviours, especially the cleaning of the clutches by subordinate helpers. I specifically want to know to which degree the phenotypic variation we observe in these behaviours has a heritable basis or if it is mostly influenced by environmental factors.

egg_cleaning biting

My first results demonstrate that while individuals consistently show similar levels of helping, the phenotypic variation is almost entirely caused by environmental effects (e.g. maternal effects) and that only a very small fraction is explained by heritable differences. I am also interested in genotype-by-environment interactions, i.e. if there is a heritable component of the plasticity with which individuals react to different environments. Together with master student Tanja Schreier I am examining phenotypic and genetic correlations of several helping behaviours as well as aggressive and submissive tendencies. Moreover, I am investigating the genes and molecular pathways that are involved in the expression of these cooperative behaviours. To answer these questions I use the tools of quantitative genetics and whole-transcriptome analysis.


My research interests are typically broad but mainly comprise different aspects of sociality: in my master thesis at the University of Vienna, Austria, I investigated social cognition of marmosets and I found out that individuals flexibly adjust their use of tactics to obtain food according to the current social environment. During an internship at the CNRS and University of Strasbourg, France, I became interested in how the social structure of (primate) groups can be described in terms of Social Network Analysis and together with Bernhard Völkl I investigated how social structure influences the emergence of cooperation. As a research assistant to Professor Monique Borgerhoff Mulder I worked on the question of which mechanisms pattern the cooperation in a human population in Tanzania that undergoes dramatic changes due to market integration and experiences a breakdown of traditional institutions due to increasing economic inequality. We find that while unidirectional helping among kin seems to play a minor role compared to reciprocal exchange, it is still an important predictor of the choice of a partner for reciprocal relationships.


Kasper, C. & Borgerhoff Mulder, M., 2015, Who Helps and Why? Cooperative Networks in Mpimbwe. Current Anthropology published online Sept 1, 2015

Voelkl B., Kasper C. & Schwab, C., 2011, Network measures for dyadic interactions: stability and reliability. American Journal of Primatology 73: 1-10

Kasper C. & Voelkl B., 2009, A social network analysis of primate groups. Primates 50:343–356

Voelkl B. & Kasper C., 2009, Social structure of primate interaction networks facilitates the emergence of cooperation. Biology Letters 2009(5), 462-464

Kasper C., Voelkl B. & Huber L., 2008, Mouth-to-mouth food transfers in common marmosets. Primates 49:153–156

Curriculum Vitae

since 10/12 PhD studies at the Ethologische Station Hasli (Dept. for Behavioural Ecology) at the University of Bern (in the SNF-funded project “The Genetic Basis of Cooperation”, supervisors: Barbara Taborsky, Nadia Aubin-Horth and Mathias Kölliker. ProDoc program on “Proximate and Ultimate causes of Cooperation”)
10/11 – 07/12 Research assistant to Prof. Borgerhoff Mulder at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study)
09/07 - 10/09 DURS (Diplôme Universitaire de Recherche Spécialisée en Sciences de la Vie) at the Université de Strasbourg and CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique; title: A social network analysis of primate groups; supervisor: Ronald Noë)
09/03 - 11/05 MSc in biology at the University of Vienna, Austria; major: zoology and animal behaviour (topic: social cognition in common marmosets; supervisors: Ludwig Huber and Thomas Bugnyar)