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MSc. Annika Freudiger

Position: PhD student

Research Group "Primate Behavioural Ecology"
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Primate Behavior and Evolution
Deutscher Platz 6 
D-04103 Leipzig 


University of Leipzig Faculty of Life Science 
Institute of Biology 
Behavioral Ecology Research Group 
Talstrasse 33 
D-04103 Leipzig 

e-mail: annika_freudiger@[>>> Please remove the text! <<<]eva.mpg.de

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Current research
Curriculum vitae

Current research

Genetic relatedness (i.e. identity-by-descent, IBD) plays a central role in the evolution of sociality. Kin selection theory predicts that individuals tend to bias affiliative behaviours towards close relatives, which increases their inclusive fitness. Even though kinship is a key concept, it has been a challenge to generate accurate estimates of dyadic relatedness among social animals. Due to high locus-to-locus variation resulting from Mendelian segregation, traditional estimates of relatedness may be imprecise at the dyadic level, which potentially leads to inaccurate conclusions about the role of kinship in social behaviour. Previous studies have demonstrated that single-nucleotide-polymorphism (SNP) data in high number provide much better estimates of relatedness than previously used methods. Hence, whole genome sequencing (WGS) covering all SNPs across the whole genome deliver the most reliable data. Kinship is a key driver of behavioural preferences in primates, with bonds among relatives leading to higher fitness outcomes. However, there is high variation in the degree of kin bias across primate species, which, to some extent, might be explained by methodological limitations in the estimation of relatedness. Consequently, IBD derived from WGS data offers unique opportunities to understand variance in social preferences and complex kin structures in primates. 

In my PhD project, I investigate the influence of fine-scale variation in IBD on sociality in rhesus macaques. I combine IBD gained from WGS data with demographic, behavioural, reproductive and other phenotypic data. Thereby, I will assess the influence of the gradient in IBD on social preference, phenotypic cues and their use in kin recognition. Furthermore, I compare IBD from WGS data with relatedness estimates derived from traditional methods.

Curriculum vitae

Education and academic appointments:
Since 02/2021  PhD student
University of Leipzig and Max-Planck-Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI EVA), Leipzig, Germany
Dissertation title: “Assessing the impact of realized relatedness on primate sociality using whole genome sequencing
Supervisor: Prof. Dr Anja Widdig (University of Leipzig)
Funded by the DFG
02/2020-07/2020Visiting scholar
Manchester Metropolitan University, UK
Supervisor: PD Dr Joachim G. Frommen (University of Bern, Manchester Metropolitan University)
02/2019 to 01/2021Master of Science in Ecology and Evolution
(summa cum laude)
With special qualification in Behavioural Ecology
University of Bern, Switzerland
Thesis title: „Ecological and genetic drivers of morphological and behavioural differentiation in a cooperatively breeding cichlid
Supervisors: PD Dr Joachim G. Frommen (University of Bern, Manchester Metropolitan University), Dr Dario Josi (University of Bern, Manchester Metropolitan University)
09/2015 to 01/2019Bachelor of Science in Biology
With special qualification in Ecology and Evolution
University of Bern, Switzerland
Thesis title: “Helpers invest in territory defence and protection of young depending on need in the cooperatively breeding cichlid Neolamprologus savoryi
Supervisors: PD Dr Joachim G. Frommen (University of Bern, Manchester Metropolitan University), Dr Dario Josi (University of Bern, Manchester Metropolitan University)
Work experience:
10/2019 - 12/2019Research assistant
University of Bern, Switzerland
Project: “Alternative reproductive tactics in male Lamprologus callipterus
Supervisor: Prof. Dr Michael Taborsky (University of Bern)
Field expeditions:
09/2019-10/2019  Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania
Project: “Social systems of fairy cichlids”
Expedition leader: Prof. Dr Michael Taborsky (University of Bern)
10/2018-11/2018   Lake Tanganyika, Zambia
Project: “Cooperative breeding in Julidochromis ornatus”
Expedition leader: PD Dr Joachim G. Frommen (University of Bern, Manchester Metropolitan University)
Grants and awards:
2023Award for Best Student Talk at the Behaviour 2023 conference, Bielefeld, Germany
2022Volz-Award 2022: best publication, resulting from a master thesis at the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, University of Bern, CH
2020Travel Stipend for Master’s Thesis by the Ethologische Gesellschaft e.V.
2021Haldane Prize 2021: best paper in Functional Ecology written by an early career researcher, British Ecological Society, UK
2020Best Master Thesis in Biology 2020/2021, University of Bern, CH



Freudiger A*, Jovanovic VM*, Huang Y*, Snyder-Mackler N, Conrad DF, Miller B, Montague MJ, Westphal H, Stadler PF, Bley S. Ruiz-Lambides A, Tung J, Nowick K, Ringbauer H & Widdig A (2024) Taking identity-by-descent analysis to the wild: Estimating realised relatedness in free-ranging macaques. Preprint at bioRxiv: https://doi.org/10.1101/2024.01.09.574911


Freudiger A, Josi D, Thünken T, Herder F, Flury JM, Marques DA, Taborsky M & Frommen JG (2021) Ecological variation drives morphological differentiation in a highly social vertebrate. Func Ecol, 35, 2266 – 2281 https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2435.13857

Josi D*, Freudiger A*, Taborsky M & Frommen JG (2020) Experimental predator intrusions in a cooperative breeder reveal threat-dependent task partitioning. Behav Ecol, 91(6), 1369 - 1378 https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/araa094

(*these authors contributed equally)

Non peer-reviewed:

Freudiger A (2020) Advantages and disadvantages of an online conference: An experiential report. EthoNews 82: 26 – 27

Freudiger A (2020) Bachelor Report: Group members of a cooperative breeding cichlid divide labour during anti-predator defence to protect offspring. EthoNews 81: 23 – 27