Anja Guenther and Diethard Tautz
The role of environmental conditions for individual variation in behaviour and life history
Environmentally dependent phenotypic variation may play a critical role in several ecological and evolutionary phenomena, such as rapid adaptation to novel and changing environments. Characteristics of life history, behavioural and physiological traits are shaped through interactions with the environment, both, within and across generations. However, the effects of specific ecological conditions on the coevolution among these phenotypic traits and the mechanisms by which phenotypic adaptations are conveyed across generations remain largely elusive for diverse systems such as natural and semi-natural populations. Especially the functional role of environmental variation for the maintenance of behavioural differences (i.e. animal personality) and physiology remains largely unspecified.
We use the house mouse as a model organism to understand how environmental variation contributes to the maintenance of consistent individual differences in life history, physiology and behaviour.
To understand how populations adapt to environmental change, we combine methods from several biological disciplines including behavioural observations, endocrinology, life history and molecular epigenetics. The project will use wild house mice living under semi-natural conditions fed with high or low quality food.
Candidates should have a genuine interest in studying animal behaviour (under field-like conditions) and be motivated to combine state-of-the-art laboratory techniques with ecological and ethological questions.