The Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology is a biological research institute for the study of animal behavior. Ethology (or Behavioral Biology) is an integrative field that addresses questions about how and why animals do what they do. Since spring 2015 it is also the headquaters of the Österreichischen Vogelwarte/Austrian Ornithological Centre (AOC).

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Science Day 2019 - Poster award in the category "university environment"

Winners of the Poster Awards in the category "university environment" and "science journalism". Photo © T. Suchanek/Vetmeduni Vienna
Winners of the Poster Awards in the category "university environment" and "science journalism". 8

On November 27, 2019, science was celebrated at the Vetmeduni Vienna.  This included a keynote speech by Nuno Maulide, awards for outstanding scientific work, the kick-off of the entrepreneurial Vetmeduni initiative and networking. 45 posters were submitted this year by researchers from the Vetmeduni Vienna and judged by various expert juries. The Scientific Advisory Board of the University, consisting of international scientists and experts from various veterinary disciplines, formed the jury for the poster award category "university environment".

Third place in this category went to Maria Adelaide Marconi of the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology for her poster on the vocal personality of male house mice.

More info (in German) 9

(Web editor, 2 December 2019)



The handicap principle: from erroneous hypothesis to scientific standard

Photo © Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology/ Vetmeduni Vienna
Graphic of a peacock wheel with feather detail 10

In a recently published review, Dustin Penn of the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology at Vetmeduni Vienna reveals a widely accepted hypothesis to be a scientific fallacy. The handicap principle is the most widely cited explanation for the evolution of costly and conspicuous signalling systems in the animal world, such as the colourful plumage of peacocks. According to Penn, however, this idea is completely erroneous and can be rejected.

The article "The Handicap Principle: how an erroneous hypothesis became a scientific princ 11iple“ by Dustin J. Penn and Szabolcs Számadó was published in Biological Reviews .

More info 12

(Web editor, 25 November 2019)



Swallow project receives Citizen Science Award 2019

Dr. Richard Zink and team member Janette Siebert, MSc with the winners (Photo OeAD GmbH/APA-Fotoservice/Schedl)
Group picture of the winning team and project leaders 13

Once again this year, interested people ("citizen scientists") had the opportunity to participate in research projects throughout Austria as part of the Citizen Science Awards 2019 14. The most dedicated citizen scientists were again honored by the Federal Ministry of Science and Research (BMBWF) and the Austrian Exchange Service (OeAD) with the Citizen Science Award on 19 November 2019.

A project of the Austrian Ornithological Centre  "Flugkünstler gesucht - Schwalbe gesehen 15?" ("Flying artists - have you seen a swallow?") was one of the seven winning projects. The aim of the project was to investigate the occurrence of common house martins and barn swallows in the Lower Austrian district of Tulln. Citizen scientists - participating classes as well as individuals - were able to photograph swallows and their nests with camera or smartphone and record their observations on the Wild Neighbors 16 website. On the Citizen Science Award Day, interested schoolchildren had the opportunity to learn more about the birdlife in town and country as well as to take a look behind the scenes of the different nesting aids and bird nests.

The festive ceremony then took place in the ballroom of the University of Vienna. Attractive prizes for two individuals and prize money for the winning class of BG / BRG Tulln (Lower Austria) were awarded based on the number of nests reported during the research period. 

(Web editor, 20 November 2019)  


Vetmeduni Vienna, Carinthia and Hohe Tauern National Park can look back on the successful 1st Mallnitz Days

Walter Arnold (Vetmeduni Vienna), Günther Novak (Mayor Mallnitz), Barbara Ladstätter (Dept. of Education, Carinthia), Klaus Eisank (Hohe Tauern National Park) and Provincial Council Sara Schaar (from left to right) at the 1st Mallnitz Days. Photo © Peter Schober
Group photo Walter Arnold (Vetmeduni Vienna), Günther Novak (Mayor Mallnitz), Barbara Ladstätter (Dept. of Education, Carinthia), Klaus Eisank (Hohe Tauern National Park) and State Councilor Sara Schaar (from left to right) at the 1st Mallnitz Days 17

Back in February 2019, the Province of Carinthia and the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, signed a letter of intent presenting a sustainable concept for the further development and expansion of the university infrastructure in Carinthia. Now the cooperation has begun to bear fruit - in the form of the first Mallnitz Days, which took place from 17 to 18 October 2019 in the National Park Visitor Center in Mallnitz. The Hohe Tauern National Park offers ideal conditions for research and education in wildlife science. For this reason, the focus of the 1st Mallnitzer Tage was on the themes of wildlife ecology and management. Well-known experts of the Vetmeduni Vienna provided the attendees with comprehensive knowledge in the course of numerous workshops, such as how to determine the age of red deer, or the future of chamois in the Eastern Alps. Walter Arnold, Leonida Fusani, Christoph Beiglböck and Friederike Range of the Department of Interdisciplinary Life Sciences reported on their research methods and results.

More info 18 (in German)

(Web editor, 21 October 2019)


Conference award for Jim McGetrick of the Domestication Lab

Photo (c) Katharina Wenig
Jim McGetrick at a conference talk 19

Jim McGetrick from the Domestication Lab of the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology won second place in a "best talk" award at the 6. European Student Conference on Behaviour and Cognition 20, which took place from 4 to 7 September 2019 in Padua. His talk was entitled "Dogs' responses in inequity paradigms may be driven by perceptions of reward attainability". We congratulate our colleague!

(Web editor, 3 October 2019)




Open House Vienna 2019

For Open House Vienna 2019, on 14 and 15 September, the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology opened its doors to the public for the first time.  More than 600 interested visitors were able to find out about the exciting architecture of Anton Schweighofer 21 during well attended guided tours by Architect DI Jürgen Radatz 22. He described in detail Schweighofer's paradigm shift from old to new, referred to the special construction method and inspired the visitors with his explanations concerning architecture and changing research interests!

The KLIVV team thanks its numerous visitors for their interest.



Sexual experience of no reproductive benefit to male house mice

The researchers found no evidence that sexual experience increases male mating or reproductive success in house mice. (Photo K. Thonhauser)
A pair of mice in a lab

Contrary to previous assumptions, sexual experience is no advantage for mate choice and mating success. This surprising finding is the central result of a study conducted on house mice by the Vetmeduni Vienna. This suggests that in mammals, even highly complex behaviors are more genetically programmed than previously thought.

As part of a study at the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, a research team investigated the sexual behavior of domestic mice, whereby one female could choose between two different males. Of these, either both were sexually experienced, both were sexually inexperienced, or one male was sexually experienced and the other was inexperienced. The test design made it possible to find out female mating preferences - also against the background that sexually inexperienced males often kill offspring. Sexually experienced males mated as often and did not produce more offspring than their virgin competitors. Based on these findings, which contradict previous assumptions, according to the study authors, future studies on vertebrates should take into account that female social preferences are not a reliable indicator of mate choice.

The article "Sexual experience has no effect on male mating or reproductive success in house mice 23“ by Kerstin E. Thonhauser, Alexandra Raffetzeder, and Dustin J. Penn was published in Scientific Reports.

More info 24

(Web editor, 9 September 2019)


Sleeping unsafely tucked in to conserve energy in nocturnal migratory songbirds

Garden warbler (Photo Biillyboy, Wikimedia Commons)
Garden warbler

Sleeping with the head tucked in the back feathers is a common behavior exhibited by most species of birds. In a recent study, scientist from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology of the Vetmeduni Vienna and the University of Vienna found, that the hiding of the head during sleep reduces heat loss and conserves energy reserves. However sleeping with the head tucked is risky for the birds. Due to the reduced metabolic rate and the slower reaction time, their risk of being predated is increased.

Nocturnally migrating songbirds that cross the Mediterranean to reach continental Europe often stop on islands close to the coast to rest before continuing their journey. Through detailed observations of Garden Warblers that had recently arrived on one of these island stopover sites, a team of researchers around Leonida Fusani found that the sleeping position of the warblers depended on their physiological condition

These findings reveal new perspectives on the functions of avian sleep postures, as well as the ecological and physiological challenges birds face during migration.

The article „Sleeping unsafely tucked in to conserve energy in a nocturnal migratory songbird 25“ by Andrea Ferretti, Niels C. Rattenborg, Thomas Ruf, Scott R. McWilliams, Massimiliano Cardinale, and Leonida Fusani was published in Current Biology.

More info 26

(Web editor, 19 August 2019)


Complex courtship behaviour

Cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) passing a berry back and forth as part of a courtship ritual (Photo Minette Layne, Seattle, Washington - CC BY-SA 2.0)
Cedar waxwings passing a berry back and forth

The development and function of multimodal courtship displays are behaviours designed to facilitate attraction of potential partners and mating. They are widespread throughout the animal kingdom. Most courtship signals are multimodal, that is they consist of different signals and different sensory modalities. Although courtship often has a strong influence on reproductive success, the question of why and how males use multimodal courtship to improve their reproductive performance has not received much attention. Little is known about the role of the various components of male advertising and their relative importance to females.

The aim of a study at the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, led by Leonida Fusani, was to examine what is currently known about the functional significance of advertising displays, in particular the role of multimodality in this context. The focus is on those cases where a complete picture of the communication system can only be assessed by taking into account the complexity and interaction of different modalities. Empirical studies are needed to specifically test how the variation of the various modalities and the interaction between them influence the response and selection of females. Moreover, we know very little about the neural mechanisms involved in the multisensory processing of courtship.

The article Evolution and function of multimodal courtship displays  27by Clémentine Mitoyen, Cliodhna Quigley, and Leonida Fusani was published in the journal Ethology.

(Web editor, 6 August 2019)


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Conference of the expert group on woodpeckers of the German Ornithological Society, 27-29 March 2020, Vienna

Great spotted woodpecker (© Johannes Hloch)

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Recovered a bird ring?

Bird rings of various sizes

Please report your recovery here 31.


Wilhelminenberg Seminar

Every Wednesday during the university semester we hold the "Wilhelminenberg Seminar", a colloquium where leading international scientists present their latest research results.

Seminar programme 32


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