Priv.-Doz. Dr. Richard Wagner

Konrad-Lorenz-Institut für Vergleichende Verhaltensforschung
Department für Interdisziplinäre Lebenswissenschaften
Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Savoyenstr. 1a
A-1160 Wien

T +43 (1) 25077 7331
F +43 (1) 25077 94 7331

E-Mail an Richard Wagner senden


  • Colonial breeding in birds and fishes
  • Sexual selection & breeding systems

The main goal of my research is to answer 'why do many animals breed in colonies'? Coloniality is an enigma because high density breeding creates numerous costs. The traditional approach to studying coloniality has been to search for benefits that might outweigh the costs. However, despite decades of research, this approach has not yielded general explanations of how colonies form. My colleagues and I are pursuing an alternative approach of identifying mechanisms that produce aggregations (Danchin & Wagner 1997, Trends in Ecology & Evolution 12: 342-347). We are examining the idea that colonies and other social aggregations are by-products of the choices by individuals of the commodities necessary for reproduction such as mates and habitat.

Specifically, my main focus is the hidden lek hypothesis, which predicts that when monogamous females seek extra-pair copulations, males aggregate by the same mechanisms that produce leks. I am testing the hidden lek hypothesis in several species. In lapwings, a shorebird, I am working with Dr. Donald Blomqvist to determine whether less attractive males are drawn to more attractive males to obtain mates. This is a prediction that was derived from purple martins, a swallow, in which I am conducting a colony formation experiment with Dr. Malcolm Schug. Because many fish species are monogamous and colonial like many birds, my students and I am now using the acquarium facilities at the institute to design colony formation experiments in cichlid fishes.


  • Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) grant #P15988 1
  • Austrian Science Foundation (FWF) Project #P17468 2 (see also Vetdoc 3)

Curriculum Vitae

Born in New York


  • D.Phil., Department of Zoology, Oxford University, 1991
  • M.F.S., Wildlife Ecology Program, School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Yale University, 1986
  • B.A., Ecology and Evolutionary, University of Arizona, 1981

Positions held:

  • Research Associate: Smithsonian Institution, 1997-present.
  • Adjunct Professor and Research Associate: York University, 1997-2000
  • Visiting Associate Professor: Institute of Ecology, University of Pierre and Marie Curie, Paris. April - August 1996 and Feb-April 1999.
  • Research Fellow: York University. 1994-1996.
  • Research Fellow: Smithsonian Institution. 1991-1994.


Publikationen 4