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Comparative Behavioral Ecology

Our group leverages comparisons of behavioral adaptation across diverse species. We are unraveling the cognitive mechanisms and environmental features that underly behavioral adaptations, and their role in a species' ability to successfully adapt to new environments. We combine anthropology, biology, and psychology to investigate animal behavior from an interdisciplinary perspective including: how internal factors such as immunity and hormones interact with behavior, how cognition shapes the range of behaviors expressed, whether differences in behavior are linked with reproductive success, and how social systems are adaptations to their environment.

Research Questions

Why do individuals differ in behavior?
To answer this question, we investigate variation in the...

  • ...development and fitness of individuals
  • ...experienced environment across populations
  • ...life history and ecology across societies


Who we are

Senior Researchers
Research Staff
Doctoral Students
Technical Staff
  • Christa Rolls, Grackle Research Assistant
Interested in joining our group?

We are interested in having a diverse group of researchers working in Comparative Behavioral Ecology. We realize that opportunities and career progression are not equally available to all. Therefore, we aim to assess people based on what they have done with the opportunities they have been given. We signed DORA, which means that we will not use metrics to select researchers, but rather assess research quality directly and consider all types of research outputs. If your research interests are a good fit for our group, and if you are contributing to changing academia to make it more inclusive for groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences, then… 

  • Potential undergraduate research assistants: we are limited in the opportunities we can offer, but it might be possible if your participation in our research could count toward your degree requirements in Leipzig, Germany or at your local university if the project can be completed remotely. Alternatively, if you are not local and you would like to be a visiting researcher, you would need to acquire external funding to support your work on a specific project.
  • Potential PhD students who have a Masters Degree can apply through the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS): the Leipzig School of Human Origins. Opportunities are limited, so please contact us before applying.
  • Potential postdocs can apply for funding - here is a useful list of funding opportunities.

Open research pledge

We aim to make all of our research processes and products freely available to everyone as much as possible (noting that in some instances information might be protected or not ours to share). We are actively working to change academic culture to improve research quality through our participation in #BulliedIntoBadScience and in creating workflows for verifiable research (talk slides). One of the processes by which we are creating change in academic publishing is via our participation in Peer Community in Ecology and Peer Community in Registered Reports as co-founders, recommenders (editors), authors, and reviewers.

Code of conduct

Vea una versión en Español
Siehe eine Version auf Deutsch

All members of the lab, along with visitors, are expected to agree with and abide by the following code of conduct. We will enforce this code as needed. We expect cooperation from all members to help ensure a safe and welcoming environment for everybody. Your health and safety, and that of everyone around you and our research subjects, is more important than our research.

The Quick Version

The lab is dedicated to providing a harassment-free and welcoming experience for everyone, regardless of gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion (or lack thereof), or species. We do not tolerate harassment of lab members in any form. Sexual language and imagery is generally not appropriate for any lab venue, including lab meetings, presentations, or discussions. (However, do note that we work on biological matters so work-related discussions of e.g., animal reproduction are appropriate.) We value individual differences and strive to create a welcoming environment for lab members.

The Less Quick Version

We expect all members of the lab to behave according to these rules and all relevant protocols and guidelines.

Harassment includes offensive verbal comments related to gender, gender identity and expression, age, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance, body size, race, religion, sexual images in public spaces, deliberate intimidation, stalking, following, harassing photography or recording, sustained disruption of talks or other events, inappropriate physical contact, and unwelcome sexual attention.

Members asked to stop any harassing behavior are expected to comply immediately.

If you are being harassed, notice that someone else is being harassed, or have any other concerns, please contact Corina Logan (corina_logan@[>>> Please remove the text! <<<]eva.mpg.de) or Dieter Lukas (dieter_lukas@[>>> Please remove the text! <<<]eva.mpg.de) immediately. If Corina or Dieter are the cause of your concern, Margaret Tarampi (margaret@[>>> Please remove the text! <<<]tarampi.com) is a good informal point of contact; she does not work for Corina or Dieter or the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, and she has agreed to mediate. For official concerns, please contact the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology's Ombudsperson or Equal Opportunity Commissioner.

We realize that people come from all over the world to work on research projects in our lab, and we strive to make everyone feel welcome. For example, English may not be the native language of many lab members; therefore, we will take the time to go slowly and prioritize understanding over speed or convenience. As well, many lab members are multi-lingual, which can help facilitate communication.

We expect members to follow these guidelines at any lab-related event.

These Lab Interpersonal Interactions are based on Titus Brown's who cites the original source and credit: http://2012.jsconf.us/#/about & The Ada Initiative. Please help by translating or improving: http://github.com/leftlogic/confcodeofconduct.com. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License



  • Anne Kandler: social learning, innovation, experimental design
  • Jeremy Koster: kinship and publishing ethics
  • Bret Beheim: reproducibility
  • Cody Ross: modeling grackle space use, demographic analyses
  • Adam Powell: experimental design
  • Heidi Colleran: reproductive conflict
  • Monique Borgerhoff Mulder: human behavioral variation

@ University of Leipzig…

  • Anja Widdig: bridge seminar with EVA PhD students and primatologists

@ MPI…

  • Hannah Rowland: field site management problem solving
  • Lucy Aplin: field site management problem solving
  • Max Planck Digital Library: changing scholarly communication culture
@ Around the world…
  • US: 
    • Aaron Blackwell, University of California Santa Barbara and Washington State University - grackle immunity
    • Aaron Blaisdell, University of California Los Angeles - grackle causal cognition
    • Maria Pacheco and Ananias Escalante, Temple University - grackle haemosporidian parasites and microbiome
    • Nancy Chen, University of Rochester - habitat modeling
  • UK: 
    • Tim Clutton-Brock, University of Cambridge - mammalian social evolution
    • Toman Barsbai, University of Bristol - human variation and ecology
  • Germany: 
    • Andreas Pondorfer, TU Munich - human variation and ecology
    • Oliver Höner, IZW Berlin - dominance hierarchies
    • Peter Kappeler and Claudia Fichtel, DPZ Göttingen - dominance hierarchies
  • France: 
    • Elise Huchard, CNRS (Montpellier) - infanticide and female dominance in mammals
  • New Zealand: 
    • Rachael Shaw, Victoria University of Victoria at Wellington - ManyIndividuals co-founder

Selected Recent Publications

Summers J, Lukas D, Logan C, Chen N (2022). The role of climate change and niche shifts in divergent range dynamics of a sister-species pair. doi: 10.32942/osf.io/879pe

Dalzero A, Ross CT, Lukas D (2022). Fitness consequences of cousin marriage: a life-history assessment in two populations. doi: 10.1017/ehs.2022.55

Barsbai T, Lukas D, Pondorfer A (2021). Local convergence of behavior across species. doi: 10.1126/science.abb7481

Blaisdell AP, Seitz B, Rowney C, Folsom M, MacPherson M, Deffner D, Logan CJ (2021). Do the more flexible individuals rely more on causal cognition? Observation versus intervention in causal inference in great-tailed grackles. doi: 10.24072/pcjournal.44

Logan CJ, McCune KB, MacPherson M, Johnson-Ulrich Z, Rowney C, Seitz B, Blaisdell AP, Deffner D, Wascher CAF (2021). Are the more flexible individuals also better at inhibition? doi: 10.26451/abc.

Logan, C. J., Avin, S., Boogert, N., Buskell, A., Cross, F. R., Currie, A., Jelbert, S., Lukas, D., Mares, R., Navarrete, A. F., Shigeno, S., & Montgomery, S. H. (2018). Beyond brain size: Uncovering the neural correlates of behavioral and cognitive specialization. Comparative Cognition & Behavior Reviews,13, 55-89.