Our research is focused mainly on sexual selection, sexual conflict, and animal communication, and particularly the mechanisms and functions of courtship signals.
We mainly study wild house mice (Mus musculus), though our students also study stickleback fish (Gasterosteus aculeatus) and other taxa, and especially in seminatural conditions.
Sexual Selection: We study mate choice (inter-sexual selection), and we aim to better understand how individuals find and assess the quality and compatibility of potential mates, and the adaptive functions (fitness consequences) of non-random mating. We also study male-male competition (intra-sexual selection), including sperm competition, and sexual conflict.
Animal Communication: We study a variety of aspects of communication, including how animals recognize individuals and kin (social recognition), and why animals often advertise with honest signals rather than cheating.
- Chemical signals: Male mice produce a variety of pheromones that influence the behavior and physiology of conspecifics. We are studying the signaling functions of major urinary proteins (MUPs), which bind and transport volatile pheromones (Austrian Science Foundation grant, P24711-B21)
- Ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs): Male mice emit complex vocalizations during courtship and copulation, and we are studying their signaling functions (Austrian Science Foundation grant, P28141-B25)
- Sounds and pheromones: Our project aims to identify neural circuits controlling sexual imprinting and the integration of olfactory and acoustic cues that control mating preferences as adults (grant funded by the Human Frontier Science Program, grant)
- Voice Prints: Individual Signatures and Recognition in Mice (Austrian Science Foundation (FWF grant)
Evolutionary Biology and Medicine: We study the evolution and select maintenance of genetic (MHC) diversity, host-pathogen interactions, stress biology (telomere dynamics), inbreeding depression, and other topics that have direct implications for medicine.