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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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Witnessing extinction

A European roller hunting for insects (Photo David Grabovac – via Wikimedia Commons)
European roller with insect in its beak 8

Due to broad‐scale habitat loss, European Rollers (Coracias garrulus) have been decreasing in numbers rapidly during the 20th century in parts of their European distribution range. In Austria, as of 2017, only a completely isolated relict population of two breeding pairs and a few non‐breeders remained in Styria, compared to about 270 pairs in the 1950s. In 2018, no breeders at all were recorded. Since 2002, all nestlings and adult birds in Austria have been ringed. Given the small census size, combined with lack of immigration from other populations, genetic depletion seems likely. In the present study, genetic data based on blood samples of nestlings from recent years were collected and compared with museum samples from historical times and with birds across the distribution range to arrive at a first preliminary phylogeographic dataset for the species. The mitochondrial DNA showed a decrease in genetic variation over time in Austria. These results indicate drift effects in this relict European Roller population caused by the fast population breakdown and small population size. We also found that the Austrian Rollers are part of a formerly continuous European population.  This opens the way to restocking the present relict population with birds from Eastern Europe (“genetic rescue”).

The article Witnessing extinction: Population genetics of the last European Rollers (Coracias garrulus) in Austria and a first phylogeographic analysis of the species across its distribution range 9 by Carina Nebel, Kerstin Kadletz, Anita Gamauf, Elisabeth Haring, Peter Sackl, Michael Tiefenbach,  Hans Winkler and Frank E. Zachos was published in the Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research.

(Web editor, 8 July 2019)


Successful reintroduction of the Ural owl

Stephan Pernkopf, Petra Winter, Richard Zink and Alfred Riedl with a Ural owl. Photo © NLK Reinberger
Stephan Pernkopf, Petra Winter, Richard Zink and Alfred Riedl with a Ural owl 10

It has been a decade since the first 22 young Ural owls were released in 2009.  Currently there are about 30 stable Ural owl pairs living in the wild in Lower Austria.  The species had become extinct in the wild in Austria in the 1950s.  The long-term engagement of forestry, conservation groups, and hunting organizations has been successful.  On 17 June the Austrian Ornithological Centre´s branch in Seebarn celebrated a decade of successful reintroduction of this charismatic owl species. 

Project leader Richard Zink is optimistic that Ural owls have a good chance to establish themselves permanently in the Austrian woods.  Forestry and agriculture measures can support this process.  The Ural owl is well adapted to texture-rich mixed broadleaf forests with native tree species.  

An international breeding network provides the foundation for the reintroduction programme.  In Austria there is a long-term cooperation with the Schönbrunn Zoo and 12 more zoos and breeding stations.  They support the project and provide owl chicks for release into the wild. 

More info 11 (in German)

(Web editor, 18 June 2019)



Pheromones and social status: Machos smell better

The scent marks of dominant males are more appealing to female house mice than those of subordinate males. (Photo: © B. Wernisch / Vetmeduni Vienna)
The mouse lab setup with the mice and a chromatogram (chemical analyses of volatile pheromones) (Photo: © B. Wernisch/ Vetmeduni Vienna)
Mouse laboratory experiment setup with chromatogram 13

Male house mice are territorial and scent-mark their territories with urine – and dominant, territorial males have much greater reproductive success than other males. A study conducted by researchers around Dustin Penn from the Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology of the Vetmeduni Vienna was recently published in Scientific Reports.  It shows that female mice display preferential olfactory attraction to the scent of dominant males, and that dominant males have higher pheromone production than subordinates.

The present study is the first to demonstrate that dominant, territorial males upregulate their pheromone production.

The article "Regulation of volatile and nonvolatile pheromone attractants depends on social status 14" by M. Thoss, K.C. Luzynski, V.M. Enk, E. Razzazi-Fazeli, J.Kwak, I. Ortner, and D.J. Penn has appeared in Scientific Reports.

More info 15

(Web editor, 11 March 2019)


News Archive... 16



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Tel:   +43 (1) 25077-7900
Fax:  +43 (1) 25077-7941

How to find us 17


Recovered a bird ring?

Bird rings of various sizes

Please report your recovery here 18.


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 19


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