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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Rainbowfish help to study the adaptability of species to climate change

Rainbowfish M. duboulayi (Photo Eileen Kortright (Roan Art), Wikimedia Commons CC BY 2.5)
Rainbowfish in an aquarium 8

As local temperatures rise, some animals and plants try to migrate to more favourable climatic regions. However, human activities, such as agriculture and urbanisation, are destroying and fragmenting habitats. Many species are unable to to migrate  to better habitats.

Those species with higher “adaptive resilience” are more likely to keep up with changes in climate and survive. An international team of researchers including Dr. Steve Smith, the Head of the Genetics Lab at the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology, studied three similar species of rainbowfishes from different climatic regions of Australia: the subtropics, the desert and the temperate region.  The researchers found a strong association between genetic responses and heat tolerance. The sub-tropical variety of these fishes showed much greater adaptability to warming temperatures than the temperate species. The implications of the study can be extended to many non-migratory animals and plants under pressure due to climate change.

The article "Adaptation of plasticity to projected maximum temperatures and across climatically defined bioregions 9" by Jonathan Sandoval-Castillo, Katie Gates, Chris J. Brauer, Steve Smith, Louis Bernatchez, and Luciano B. Beheregaray was published in the journal PNAS.

(Web editor, 13 July 2020)


Golden-collared manakins: behavioural flexibility of an athlete

Golden-collared manakin (Manacus vitellinus), Photo © Elisa Perinot
Golden-collared manakin 10

Humans and animals react to changes in the environment with behavioural flexibility that helps them to adapt to new situations and circumstances or to learn new behaviours. Judith Janisch, Elisa Perinot and Leonida Fusani from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology at the Vetmeduni Vienna and the Department of Behavioral and Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna researched this aspect in connection with one of the most unusual mating behaviours in the animal kingdom - the courtship dance of Golden-collared manakins. They found that the birds maintain an exact sequence of jump sequences in their courtship dance, but have enough flexibility to adapt to a sudden change in the environment. The study also showed that the basis of this behaviour could be motor learning, which was first identified in connection with complex mating behavior.

The article "Behavioural flexibility in the courtship dance of golden-collared manakins, Manacus vitellinus 11" by Judith Janisch, Elisa Perinot, and Leonida Fusani was published in Animal Behaviour.

More info 12

(Web editor, 9 July 2020)



Farewell, Matteo Griggio - in memoriam

“If I had to die - I had a wonderful life!” (Matteo Griggio)

All photos (c) KLIVV
Matteo Griggio 13
Matteo and colleagues in front of the house sparrow aviaries
Herbert Hoi with Matteo Griggio and Attila 14
Farewell, Matteo
Running man at the beach 15

With great sadness we have to announce the loss of Matteo Griggio, scientist, friend and practically a family member of the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology. Almost for a decade Matteo was part of the scientific team of the Institute. During his long stay at the KLIVV, he enjoyed Austria a lot, but in his heart, he was always Italian!  So he was very happy when he was finally able to return to Italy, where he obtained a position as Professor at his home University in Padua.

During his time at the KLIVV he very much contributed to making the Institute a flourishing scientific hot spot, and with his charming behaviour he also createe a nice social environment. Interested in answering specific question in behavioural biology, he took advantage of the facilities at the KLIVV for a number of experiments. Following his interests in many topics, he also worked in the field and explored many spots across the world from his home base at the Institute.

Matteo Griggio was an enthusiastic and passionate scientist through and through. His passion was behavioural ecology and, in particular, birds. He became well recognized in his field. In fact, enthusiasm and passion drove his entire live. Interested, open-minded and gracious he was beloved wherever he turned up.

Almost all his wishes came true, his dream job as a behavioural scientist in his beloved home town Padua, many students and cooperation partners to work with, his own house, and a dog…

Matteo was happy: “If I had to die - I had a wonderful life!”

We lost Matteo suddenly and unexpectedly - in his 44th year of life. On  14 May 2020 he passed away in his house in Padua, when his heart stopped working.

He will leave a big gap in science and in our hearts, but Matteo is not gone, his life´s work continues. Today his students are dispersed throughout the world, representing him and his ideas and thoughts.

Matteo, we miss you!

Un abbraccio, bye bye

Herbert, on behalf of the entire KLIVV Team


Sexual conflicts in ducks – an evolutionary arms race

Life is not always so calm for ducks (Photo © Thomas Schilling)
A pair of ducks in the water 16

Until now, the going assumption for ducks (Anatidae) was "large penis, forced copulation, large eggs". A current study led by Hans Winkler of the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna has now been able to refute this hypothesis. The opposite actually seems to be the case: penis length and egg size correlate negatively, the larger the drake´s penis, the smaller the duck eggs. This suggests that the ducks´ evolutionary arms race with forced copulations on one side and anatomical countermeasures on the other cannot continue without restrictions.

The article "The role of female investment in a sexual arms race 17“ by Bernd Leisler and Hans Winkler was published in the Journal of Avian Biology .

More info 18

(Web editor, 27 April 2020)



Mice sing with long and complex calls when they are genetically unrelated to each other and reproduce faster

House mouse (Mus musculus musculus), Photo © Bettina Wernisch/ Vetmeduni Vienna
Domestic mouse in the lab 19

Mice often vocalize in the ultrasonic range when exposed to a conspecific or their odor, and these vocalizations are often assumed to attract mating partners, enhance courtship and mating success. A recent study by researcher of the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology (Vetmeduni Vienna) now found that mice vocalize differently when their mating partner is genetically unrelated, compared to related partners. This study provides the first evidence that mice use different vocalizations depending on their genetic relatedness, and that their vocalizations can predict their subsequent reproductive success. First author Doris Nicolakis explains the practical relevance of this new finding: “Our results are useful for breeding. The UPS emission can be used to screen breeding pairs during their first contact and to anticipate their later latency for reproduction and reproductive success ... "  

The article "Ultrasonic vocalizations in house mice depend upon genetic relatedness of mating partners and correlate with subsequent reproductive success 20“ by Doris Nicolakis, Maria Adelaide Marconi, Sarah M. Zala, and Dustin J. Penn was published in Frontiers in Zoology.

More info 21

(Web editor, 20 April 2020)



Postponed! 30th conference of the Specialist Group Woodpeckers of the German Ornithological Society, 30. Oct. bis 1. Nov. 2020, Vienna

Great spotted woodpecker female (Photo © Johannes Hloch)
great spotted woodpecker female 22

UPDATE: The conference, originally planned for late March 2020, was postponed due to the Corona/Covid-19 crisis. It is expected to take place from October 30th to November 1st, 2020 in Vienna.

The SIG Woodpeckers - the official name of the woodpecker working group - is a loose consortium of people with an interest in the woodpecker family. The Specialist Group unites specialists and lay people interested in woodpeckers. The purpose of the Group is to have a platform for the exchange of research results, to discuss them and to make suggestions for further work. In addition, networking of people interested in woodpeckers and forests is important to the woodpecker group.

The motto of the 30th conference will be "Woodpeckers as culture followers and urban residents".  


More info and registration 23

(Web editor, 16 March 2020)



News Archive... 24



Savoyenstraße 1a, A-1160 Vienna
Tel:   +43 (1) 25077-7900
Fax:  +43 (1) 25077-7941

How to find us 25


Recovered a bird ring?

Bird rings of various sizes

Please report your recovery here 26.


Woodpecker Conference 2020

Woodpecker (Photo by W. Vogl)

Conference of the expert group on woodpeckers of the German Ornithological Society

Postponed: Oct 30 - Nov 1, 2020,  Vienna

More information 27


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