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Marco Smolla

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture
Deutscher Platz 6
D - 04103 Leipzig, Germany

phone: +49 341 3550 338
e-mail: marco_smolla@[>>> Please remove the text! <<<]eva.mpg.de
website: https://marcosmolla.com

Research interests
Curriculum Vitae

Research interests

I am computational and evolutionary biologist with a background in behavioural physiology and ecology. My research focusses on how we make culture and how this affects us. I am using simulation models and existing data to study how culture emerges from individual and inter-individual actions and how it spreads in populations. I explicitly model dynamic social networks to simulate real-world interaction and information sharing patterns that change over time. I am currently working towards a modelling framework that is more explicit about the process of learning, taking into account insights from developmental psychology, ethnography, and anthropology.

Curriculum Vitae

Current position

Postdoctoral fellow in Dr Anne Kandler’s lab at the Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Appointments held

2017-2021Postdoctoral fellow in Dr Erol Akçay’s lab at the Department of Biology, University of Pennsylvania


2017PhD in Evolutionary Biology, University of Manchester, United Kingdom (supervision by Dr Susanne Shultz and Dr Tucker Gilman)
2011Diplom (Masters equivalent) in Biology, University of Würzburg, Germany (supervision by Dr Christoph J. Kleineidam)
2008Vordiplom in Biology, University of Jena, Germany

Grants & awards

2013Royal Society Studentship for a three-year PhD project at the University of Manchester
2012Internship Stipend ($2,400), Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute




Perry, S., Carter, A., Smolla, M., Akçay, E., Nöbel, S., Foster, J. G., & Healy, S. D. (2021). Not by transmission alone: The role of invention in cultural evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 376(1828): 20200049.
DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   

Smolla, M., Jansson, F., Lehmann, L., Houkes, W., Weissing, F. J., Hammerstein, P., Dall, S. R. X., Kuijper, B., & Enquist, M. (2021). Underappreciated features of cultural evolution. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 376(1828): 20200259.
DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   


Acerbi, A., Mesoudi, A., & Smolla, M. Individual-based models of cultural evolution. A step-by-step guide using R. Open Science Foundatoin (OSF).

Perry, S., & Smolla, M. (2020). Capuchin monkey rituals: An interdisciplinary study of form and function. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,
375(1805), 20190422.

Morsky, B., Smolla, M., & Akçay, E. (2020). Evolution of contribution timing in public goods games. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 287(1927), 20200735.

Gilman, R. T., Johnson, F., & Smolla, M. (2020). Competition for resources can promote the divergence of social learning phenotypes. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological
Sciences, 287(1921), 20192770


Smolla, M., Akçay, E. (2019). Cultural selection shapes network structure. Science Advances, 5(8), eaaw0609.

Smolla, M., Rosher, C., Gilman, R. T., Shultz, S. (2019). Reproductive skew affects social information use. Royal Society Open Science, 6(7), 182084. 


Smolla, M., Invernizzi, E., Bazhydai, M., Casoli, M., Deffner, D., Faria, G. S., ... Uchiyama, R. (2018). Second Annual Workshop of the Association of Early-Career Social Learning Re-
searchers in St Andrews, Scotland. Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews.


Kranstauber B., SmollaM., Safi K., 2016. Similarity in spatial utilisation distributions measured by the Earth Mover’s Distance. Methods Ecol. Evol.

Smolla, M., Alem, S., Chittka, L., Shultz, S., 2016. Copy-when-uncertain: bumblebees rely on social information when rewards are highly variable. Biology Letters.


Smolla, M., Galla, T., Gillman, T., Shultz, S., 2015. Competition for resources can explain patterns of social and individual learning in nature. Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 


Smolla, M., Nagel, M., Ruchty, M., Kleineidam, C.J., 2014. Clearing pigmented insect cuticle to investigate small insects’ organs in-situ using confocal laser-scanning microscopy
(CLSM). Arthropod Structure and Development.