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Susann Jänig (née Schunack)

Position: PhD student

Research Group "Primate Behavioural Ecology"
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture
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 

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

Research Interests
Curriculum Vitae

Current research

Although olfactory communication in great apes received minor attention during the past, recent studies showed that the olfactory sense might be more important than previously thought. Not only do apes use their sense of smell to examine their environment, for example to inspect food items, but they do also investigate traces of their conspecifics, like chimpanzees during boundary patrols, when they sniff at vegetation or the ground where other animals passed by. I am interested in the signals potentially transmitted through body odour. Therefore, I developed a method to sample body odour of great apes non-invasively and to analyse those samples via gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. During this project I want to investigate if (i) chimpanzees possess an olfactory fingerprint i.e., the individual odour signature is stable over time and if (ii) chimpanzees can discriminate between the odours of individual chimpanzees and if so I expect (iii) that individuals which are closely related have more similar olfactory profiles than non-related individuals. This way they could communicate relatedness potentially in the context of mate choice or affiliation.

My study is conducted at the Wolfgang Köhler Primate Research Center in the Leipzig Zoo, Germany.

Curriculum Vitae


04/2013-current PhD student at the University of Leipzig in collaboration with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig (MPI EVA)
Dissertation title: Chemical signalling in chimpanzees
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Anja Widdig (University of Leipzig)
10/2010-09/2012 Master of Science in Biology (with focus on Ecology and Behavioural Ecology in Primates)
Thesis title: "Method development to assess olfactory profiles via GC-MS analysis in the great apes"
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Anja Widdig (University of Leipzig)
10/2007-09/2010 Bachelor of Science in Biology
Thesis title: Beschreibung und Vergleich des Paarungsverhaltens zweier Deroceras-Arten (Gastropoda: Pulmonata: Agriolimacidae) aus Malta
Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Willi Xylander (Senckenberg Museum für Naturkunde Görlitz)

Work experience

02/2008–09/2012 Student Assistant at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Conduction and assistance of observational and experimental behavioural studies in great apes (Pan troglodytes verus, Pan paniscus, Gorilla gorilla gorilla, Pongo abelii),
management of enrichment programme for great apes
management of photo database
maintaining tours and lectures for pupils, students and guests
09/2012-10/2012 Research Assistant at the University of Leipzig
Assistance in conducting acoustic experiments with rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)
on Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico
under the supervision of Dr. Dana Pfefferle



Jänig, S., Weiß, B. M. *., Birkemeyer, C., & Widdig, A. (2019). Comparative chemical analysis of body odor in great apes. American Journal of Primatology, 81: e22976.
DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   


Jänig, S., Weiß, B. M., & Widdig, A. (2018). Comparing the sniffing behavior of great apes. American Journal of Primatology, 80(6): e22872.
DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   

Weiß, B. M., Kücklich, M., Thomsen, R., Henkel, S., Jänig, S., Kulik, L., Birkemeyer, C., & Widdig, A. (2018). Chemical composition of axillary odorants reflects social and individual attributes in rhesus macaques. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 72(4): 65.
Open Access    DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   


Birkemeyer, C. S., Thomsen, R., Jänig, S., Kücklich, M., Slama, A., Weiß, B. M., & Widdig, A. (2016). Sampling the body odor of primates: Cotton swabs sample semivolatiles rather than volatiles. Chemical Senses, 41(6), 525-535.
DOI    BibTeX   Endnote   


Reise, H., Hutchinson, J. M. C., Schunack, S., Schlitt, B., Heike, R., John M. C., H., Susann, S., & Bettina, S. (2011). Deroceras panormitanum and congeners from Malta and Sicily, with a redescription of the widespread pest slug as Deroceras invadens n. sp. Folia Malacologica, 19(4), 201-223.
Open Access    DOI    BibTeX   Endnote