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
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

Peter H.W. Biedermann, Ph.D.


A Naturalist

"Es ist so angenehm, zugleich die Natur und sich selbst zu erforschen,weder ihr noch dem eigenen Geist Gewalt anzutun,sondern beide in sanfter Wechselwirkung miteinander ins Gleichgewicht zu bringen."

------- News: I have finished my PhD and on 15th of September I am moving to the Max-Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology to continue my ambrosia beetle research ----------

Contact address

E-Mail: peter.biedermann(at)iee.unibe.ch
Phone: +41 31 631 3015 (office); +41 76 22 80 900 (mobile)


behavioural ecology, animal behaviour, evolutionary biology, forest entomology, sociobiology, insect symbiosis, insect-fungus interactions; Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, social insects, birds, fungi, microbiology



Biedermann PHW, Klepzig KD, Taborsky M & Six DL (2012): Abundance and dynamics of filamentous fungi in the complex ambrosia gardens of the primitively eusocial beetle Xyleborinus saxesenii Ratzeburg (Coleoptera: Curculionidae, Scolytinae). FEMS Microbiology Ecology doi:10.1111/1574-6941.12026 pdf

Biedermann PHW, Peer K & Taborsky M (2012): Female dispersal and reproduction in the ambrosia beetle Xyleborinus saxesenii Ratzeburg (Coleoptera; Scolytinae). Mitteilungen der Deutschen Gesellschaft f√ľr allgemeine und angewandte Entomologie 18: 231-235. pdf

De Fine Licht HH & Biedermann PHW (2012): Patterns of functional enzyme activity in fungus farming ambrosia beetles. Frontiers in Zoology 9:13. doi:10.1186/1742-9994-9-13 pdf

Biedermann PHW (2012): Evolution of Cooperation in Ambrosia Beetles. PhD thesis. Institute of Ecology & Evolution, University of Bern. link


Biedermann PHW & Taborsky M. (2011): Larval helpers and age polyethism in ambrosia beetles. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 108(41): 17064-17069. doi:10.1073/pnas.1107758108 pdf - Zeit-Online, Bild der Wissenschaften, The New York Times, science.orf.at, Uniaktuell, Tagesanzeiger, Deutschlandfunk Interview

Biedermann PHW, Klepzig KD & Taborsky M (2011): Costs of delayed dispersal and alloparental care in the fungus-cultivating ambrosia beetle Xyleborus affinis Eichhoff (Scolytinae: Curculionidae). Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology 65:1753‚Äď1761. doi 10.1007/s00265-011-1183-5 pdf

Grubbs KJ, Biedermann PHW, Suen G, Adams SM, Moeller JA, Klassen JL, Goodwinm LA, Woyke T, Munk AC, Bruce D, Detter C, Tapia R, Han CS & Currie CR (2011): The Complete Genome Sequence of Streptomyces cf. griseus (XyelbKG-1 1), an Ambrosia Beetle-Associated Actinomycete. Journal of Bacteriology 193(11): 2890-91. pdf


Biedermann PHW (2010): Observations on sex ratio and behavior of males in Xyleborinus saxesenii Ratzeburg (Scolytinae, Coleoptera). In: Cognato AI, Kn√≠Ňĺek M (Eds) Sixty years of discovering scolytine and platypodine diversity: A tribute to Stephen L. Wood. Zookeys 56: 253-267. pdf


Biedermann PHW, Klepzig KR & Taborsky, M (2009): Fungus cultivation by ambrosia beetles: Behavior and laboratory breeding success in three Xyleborine species. Environmental Entomology 38(4): 1096-1105. pdf

Biedermann PHW & K√§rcher, MH (2009): Weather-dependent activity and flying height of Barn Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and House Martins (Delichon urbica) in southwestern Styria. Egretta 50: 76-81. link: pdf, Neue Z√ľricher Zeitung, Uniaktuell, derStandard


Kärcher MH, Biedermann PHW, Hrassnigg N & Crailsheim K (2008): Predator-prey interaction between drones A. m. carnica and swallows Hirundo rustica or Delichon urbica. Apidology 39: 302-309. link: pdf

Delhey K, Peters A, Biedermann PHW & Kempenaers, B (2008): Optical properties of the uropygial gland secretion: no evidence for UV cosmetics in birds. Naturwissenschaften 95 (10): 939-946. link: pdf


Biedermann P.H.W. (2007): Social behaviour in sibmating fungus farmers. Master thesis at the Department of Behavioural Ecology, University Bern, Switzerland. [pdf, 5.3MB]

before 2006

Biedermann, PHW (2006): Hidden leks in the Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus)? - Investigations from the Khan Khentey Reserve (Mongolia). Acrocephalus 27: 233-247. link: pdf

Biedermann, PHW (2003): Die Kraniche der Welt. Zoologie Newsletter Nr. 2; Landesmuseum Joanneum Graz.

Science in the media

Radio podcasts: Deutschlandfunk mp3, WDR mp3

PNAS article: K√§fer mit Sozialgef√ľhl - KleineZeitung 22.10.2011 pdf, Ein K√§fer, der f√ľr andere einsteht - Zeit-Online 25.10.2011 pdf, In der K√§fergemeinschaft m√ľssen auch die Kinder mitanpacken - derStandard 11.10.2011 link, Fast ein K√§ferstaat - Bild der Wissenschaften 7.10.2011 link, Researchers devise a method to meet the beetles - The New York Times October 4, 2011, page D3 of the New York edition link, Teamwork unter K√§fern - S√ľddeutsche Zeitung 7.10.2011 link, K√§fer teilen sich die Arbeit auf - Tagesanzeiger / der Bund 4.10.2011 pdf, Ambrosia beetles have a highly socialized system - Physorg.com October 4, 2011 pdf, Auch K√§fer kooperieren - science.orf.at 03.10.2011 link, Auch K√§fer k√∂nnen sozial sein - Uniaktuell 04.10.2011 link, Arbeitsteilung im K√§ferbau - Radiointerview Deutschlandfunk 7.12.2011 link

Others: Biotreibstoffe aus den Pilzgärten eines Käfers - Tagesanzeiger 10.07.2010 pdf

Egretta article: Schwalben fliegen bei Schlechwetter nicht tiefer - Neue Z√ľricher Zeitung Online 07.04.2009 link, Schwalben halten sich nicht an Bauernregeln - Uniaktuell 07.04.2009 link

Grants & Prices

Post-Doc grant by the Swiss National Science Foundation (65.000.- CHF in 2012)

Travel grant of the IUSSI (450.- EUR in 2012)

Promotion of Young Scientists by the Phil.nat. Faculty, University of Berne (1200.- CHF in 2011)

Oxford University Press "Achievements in Biosciences Prize 2010" (~200.- EUR in 2010)

Travel grant of the Swiss Zoological Society (~1000.- EUR in 2010)

DOC grant of the Austrian Academy of Science (2x 30.000.- EUR for 2009, 2010)

Kutter-prize for the best student presentation at the IUSSI In Frauenchiemsee (200.- EUR in 2009)

Travel grants of the Ethological Society (350.- ‚ā¨ in 2007 and 2008) and the CUSO (300.- CHF in 2009)

Collaborative grant of the USDA Forest Service (10.000.- USD in 2007)

Roche PhD-grant (30.000.- CHF in 2008)

Reviewer for scientific journals

Ardea, African Journal of Agricultural Research, African Journal of Biotechnology, Insects, Journal of Basic Microbiology, Journal of Insect Science, PlosOne

Talks / Posters / Conferences

Invited talks

Sociality and Division of Labour in Ambrosia Beetles. Seminar in Zoology, University of Mainz, Germany.

Sociality and Division of Labour in Ambrosia Beetles. Seminar in Zoology, University of W√ľrzburg, Germany.
Fungal symbioses and the Evolution of Sociality in Ambrosia Beetles (Scolytinae). Seminar at the Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany.
Social, fungus farming beetles in Swiss forests? - Studies on Ambrosia beetles. Interaction Seminar in Ecology & Evolution, ETH Zurich, Switzerland.
At the base of social evolution - Costs and benefits of philopatry in Ambrosia beetles. Seminar in Evolutionary Biology, University of Regensburg, Germany.
Higher Sociality and Fungiculture in Ambrosia beetles. Seminar in Ecology & Evolution, University of Neuchatel, Switzerland.
Cooperation and task sharing in Xyleborina (Curculionidae: Scolytinae), fungus gardening ambrosia beetles. Zoologisches Kolloqium, Zoological Institute, University of Graz, Austria.
10/2008 Sociality and Symbiosis in Xyleborina, Scolytinae. Institute of Forest Entomology Seminar, BOKU Vienna, Austria.
11-12/2007 Social behaviour in sib-mating fungus farming beetles. Invited talks given at the University of Texas in Austin and the University of Wisconsin in Madison, USA.
Talks at conferences

Divergent experimental selection for philopatry and dispersal affects the evolution of cooperative breeding in primitively eusocial ambrosia beetles. European IUSSI 2012, Montecantini, Italy.
Fungus farming in Ambrosia beetles. Genetics of Bark Beetles and Associated Microorganisms (IUFRO), Sopron, Hungary.
Sociality and Fungiculture in Ambrosia Beetles. DGaaE Tagung Berlin, Germany.
Soziale und Pilze z√ľchtende K√§fer in heimischen W√§ldern? - Untersuchungen zum Sozialverhalten von Ambrosiak√§fern. √ĖEG-Meeting 2011, Zoologisches Institut, KF-Universit√§t Graz, Austria.
Experimental Studies on Division of Labour and Fungiculture in a Beetle. Biology2011, Zurich, Switzerland.
Fungus farming and social evolution in Ambrosia beetles. IUSSI2010, Copenhagen, Denmark.
Direct and indirect fitness benefits of philopatry and cooperative care in Xyleborina. Biology2010, Neuchatel, Switzerland.

Cooperation and task sharing in Xyleborina - Ambrosia beetles*. IUSSI 2009, Frauenchiemsee, Germany

*this talk was awarded with the Kutter-prize for the best student presentation

8/2008 Cooperative brood care and fungus farming in Xyleborina. European Conference on Behavioural Biology, Dijon, France.
2/2008 Cooperative breeding in Xyleborina ‚Äď Insights from the first extensive behavioural studies of two species of ambrosia beetles. Meeting of the Ethological Society, Regensburg, Germany.
10/2007 Social behaviour in bark beetles. ETFES 07, East Texas Forest Entomology Seminar, Nacogdotches, Texas, USA.
9/2007 Towards eusociality in Xyleborinus saxesenii, a scolytid ambrosia beetle. IUFRO 07, International Union of Forest Research, BOKU Vienna, Austria.
8/2007 Social behaviour in sib-mating fungus farming beetles. EMPSEB 07 Meeting of PhD Students in Evolutionary Biology; University of Lund, Sweden.
5/2007 Höhere Sozialität in Ambrosiakäfern. Annual Xylobionten-Meeting at University Bern, Switzerland.
2/2007 Towards eusociality in Xyleborinus saxeseni. Meeting of the graduate students of the DZG and the Ethological Society, University Göttingen, Germany.

Biedermann, PHW & M Kaltenpoth (2012): Microbial symbionts and their functions in fungus culturing beetles. Microbiota Workshop, Basel, Switzerland.
Biedermann, PHW, M Taborsky, & DL Six (2012): Dynamics of filamentous fungi in the complex gardens of ambrosia beetles. Multitrophic Interactions Workshop, Göttingen, Germany.
Biedermann, PHW, KD Klepzig, CR Currie, & M Taborsky (2011): Fungus farming and sociality in ambrosia beetles. European Society of Evolutionary Biology (ESEB), T√ľbingen, Germany.
Biedermann, PHW, KD Klepzig, CR Currie, & M Taborsky (2010): Fungus farming in cooperatively breeding ambrosia beetles. COST meeting "Diversity of symbioses in arthropods" in Bad Bevensen, Germany.
Biedermann, PHW, KD Klepzig, CR Currie, & M Taborsky (2009): The evolution of cooperation and task sharing in fungus gardening ambrosia beetles. 57th Anual Meeting of the Entomological Society of America, Indianapolis, USA.
Biedermann, PHW, KD Klepzig, CR Currie, & M Taborsky (2009): The evolution of cooperation and task sharing in fungus gardening ambrosia beetles. 12th Congress of the European Society of Evolutionary Biology, Torino, Italy.
Biedermann, PHW (2009): The evolution of cooperation in the Ambrosia beetle Xyleborinus saxesenii. Award ceremony of the DOC research grant by the Austrian Academy of Science, Vienna, Austria.
2007 Meister, A, Biedermann, PHW & Taborsky, M (2007): Social behaviour in the ambrosia beetle Xyleborinus saxesenii. IUFRO Meeting 2007, BOKU Vienna, Austria.
2007 Biedermann, PHW & Taborsky, M: Towards eusociality in ambrosia beetles. Biology07 at the ETH Zurich, Switzerland.
2006 Biedermann, PHW, Peer, K & Taborsky M: Social behaviour in the bark beetle, Xyleborinus saxeseni. Meeting of the Ethological Society (Ethologischen Gesellschaft) in Bielefeld, Germany.
2005 Kärcher, MH, Biedermann, PHW & Hrassnigg, N: Drone (Apis mellifera) - Swallow interactions at Drone congregation areas and reference areas. At the Annual meeting of the German Institutes working with bees (AG der Bieneninstitute) in Halle, Germany.

Curriculum Vitae

link: pdf

9/2012 -

Post-Doc at the Department of Insect Symbiosis, Max-Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, Jena, Germany.

1/2012 - 8/2012

Post-Doc at the Behavioural Ecology Department, University of Bern, Switzerland.

5/2009 -  8/2009

Research visit at the lab of Cameron Currie, Dept. of Bacteriology UW-Madison, USA.

1/2009 - 12/2011

Independent Ph.D. candidate in Ecology & Evolution. Thesis on Evolution of Cooperation in the Ambrosia beetle Xyleborinus saxesenii. Univ. of Bern, Switzerland (Supervisors: Michael Taborsky, Christian Stauffer (BOKU Vienna)); Self-funded by a Roche grant and a DOC-grant by the Austrian Academy of Science (√ĖAW).

1/2008 - 12/2008

Ph.D. canditate, funded as an assistant researcher by the Behavioural Ecology Department, University of Bern, Switzerland.

9/2007 - 12/2007

Visiting Researcher at the lab of Kier Klepzig,Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, Pineville/LA, USA.

4/2005 -  7/2007

Master in Ecology & Evolution. Master-Thesis on the social behaviour of ambrosia beetles. University of Bern, Switzerland. (Supervisor: Michael Taborsky).


Bachelor in Zoology with the major on Animal Behaviour and Neurobiology. Thesis on Behaviour Ecology in birds. Karl-Franzens University Graz and University Vienna, Austria. (Supervisor: Heiner Roemer)

2002 -    2005

3-month research project: "Optical properties of the uropygial gland secretion in passerine birds" at the MPI in Seewiesen (B. Kempenaers)

6-week field assistentship for the project : "Sensory ecology in tropical bush crickets" at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama (H. Roemer)

3-month research project: "Hidden leks in the Yellow-browed Warbler" with the University Göttingen in Mongolia (M. Muehlenberg)

My Research - About Cooperative Birds, Beetles &


"As soon as we study animals - not in laboratories and museums only, but in the forest and the prairie, in the steppe and the mountains - we at once perceive that though there is an immense amount of warfare and extermination..., there is, at the same time, as much, or perhaps even more, of mutual support, mutual aid, and mutual defence..." (Kropotkin 1902)

I am interested in the evolution of inter- and intraspecific cooperation. My model species are the wood boring, fungus cultivating ambrosia beetles in the subtribe Xyleborini (Scolytinae). Iaim  to give new insights in the mutualistic relationship between the beetles, their fungi and associated bacteria. It is not clear if fungus gardens in ambrosia beetles can be maintained by sole individuals. Advanced agriculture, like observed in ambrosia beetles, fungus-growing ants and termites, involves many spezialized tasks and appears to be dependent on (at least) sub-sociality and division of labour. Sociality and fungiculture propably evolved in a closely linked process. Thus, comparing the social system and the practices of different ambrosia beetle species might give important insights into the factors driving this evolution.

I am mainly located in Bern, where my Ph.D. project is supervised by Michael Taborsky (Univ. Bern, CH). External collaborators in my project are Kier Klepzig (Southern Research Station, Pineville/LA USA), Diana Six and Eric Ott (University of Montana, USA), and Cameron Currie (University of Wisconsin, USA).

"Ein wirklich eigener Gedanke ist immer noch so selten wie ein Goldst√ľck im Rinnstein." (Christian Morgenstern - Schriftsteller)

Study areas

  • I would like to establish the ambrosia beetles in the subfamily Scolytinae (i.e. the Xyleborini) as a model system to study the evolution of sociality and symbiosis. This group is unique for studying the effects of different predispositions for social evolution in parallel, as it includes haplodiploid and diploid species, inbreeding and outbreeding species, all living under various ecological conditions.
  • The mechanisms of fungus garden maintenance are unknown up to know. Mutalistic interactions, the possibility of reciprocal control or potential mechanism of partner choice are jet unstudied. I investigate if other microorganisms are involved in this relationship.
The model system
  • Ambrosia beetles in the subtribe Xyleborini, i.e., Xyleborinus saxesenii, Xyleborus affinis, Xylosandrus germanus.
  • Most studies are done in the laboratory with an artificial rearing technique, which allows behavioural observations and experimental manipulations.

"Wissenschaftlichkeit: Das hei√üt zu wissen, was man wei√ü und was man nicht wei√ü. Unwissenschaftlich ist alles totale Wissen, als ob man im Ganzen Bescheid w√ľsste." (Karl Jaspers - Philosoph, Psychiater)

My studies - from birds to beetles

In general I love to observe animals and nature. I have been a naturalist all my life. It started with observing nature in our garden - moved to monitoring birds as a teenager, until all my observations were finally set on a scientific basis at university.

"Hypothesen sind Netze, nur der wird fangen, der auswirft..." (Novalis - Dichter)

My undergraduate studies in Graz, Austria

I got my first experience working scientifically during two self-organized trips to the US and Canada as an undergraduate, where I learnt radio tracking and banding of birds [Biedermann, 2003]. These field experiences turned out to be very useful for my Bachelor work I did in Northern Mongolia under the supervision of Prof. M. M√ľhlenberg (University G√∂ttingen, Germany). There, I studied Yellow browed warblers (Phylloscopus inornatus), which are birds nesting in hidden-leks that were fairly unknown to science then [Biedermann 2006]. In retrospect this trip to Mongolia was probably one of the best experiences of my life - living with nomads, having no electricity or warm water, between wild horses, bears and wolves... I felt like a naturalist in the 19th century! Afterwards I moved on with internships at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Balboa, Panama and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Seewiesen, Germany where I helped in a project studying sexual selection in blue-tits (Cyanistes caeruleus) [Delhey et al. 2008].

I became fascinated by social insects during my undergraduate studies working on honey bees at the Institute of Zoology (University of Graz, Austria). Together with my friend Martin Kärcher - both of us were interested in birds and social insects - we developed a project to study birds at honey bee drone congregation areas [Kärcher et al. 2008]. In this study we also tested if weather affects the flying height of swallows [Biedermann & Kärcher 2009], which got a lot attention from the media, because we did not find support for the public notion that swallows fly at elevated heights during good weather conditions (e.g. der standard, uniaktuell, scienceblog.de,...).gallerie_biedermann.ppt

My graduation in Bern, Switzerland

Luckily I took some time to look for the perfect master project, which I found in Bern, Switzerland at the Department of Michael Taborsky. Since then I am fascinated by the complexity of ambrosia beetle fungiculture and sociality.

Master thesis [pdf, 5.3MB]

√úber mich


Ich verbringe meine Freizeit am liebsten mit dem Lesen von guten Zeitungsartikeln, von B√ľchern und Entspannung in der Natur. Zur Abwechslung h√∂re ich gerne Radiosendungen auf √Ė1. Ich liebe die Berge - f√ľr Bewegung, Entspannung und Naturbeobachtungen. Gemeinsam mit meiner Partnerin Tabea und guten Freundschaften versuche ich in jeder Hinsicht achtsam zu leben.

"Viele Menschen hinterlassen Spuren; nur wenige hinterlassen Eindr√ľcke." (Werner Mitsch - Aphoristiker)
"Es sind die Begegnungen mit Menschen, die das Leben lebenswert machen." (Guy de Maupassant - Erzähler)