Wolfgang Forstmeier

Staff Scientist

Main Focus

  • Evolutionary Genetics
  • Behavioural Ecology
  • Mating strategies
  • Sexual behaviour
  • Infertility
  • Embryo mortality
I study the quantitative and molecular genetics of sexual behaviour in the zebra finch to address fundamental questions in evolutionary biology. One of my main interests lies in the understanding of genes that contribute to sexually antagonistic evolution. For instance, we ask, what are the effects of genes that increase male promiscuity (and hence male fitness), on female promiscuity, female fecundity, but also on male and female parental qualities. These and many other questions are addressed using long term data on a very large captive population of zebra finches. Extensive observational data on extra-pair courtships in a communal aviary setting are complemented with breeding of selection lines and large-scale SNP genotyping that allows us to conduct QTL mapping and subsequent study of candidate genes involved the behaviours that lie at the core of sexual selection.

Ongoing main projects
  • Female promiscuity as a genetic corollary of male promiscuity
  • Genes underlying digit ratio correlations with sexual behaviour
  • Quantitative genetics of male attractiveness, ornamentation and fitness
  • Inbreeding depression and heterozygosity-fitness correlations
  • QTL mapping of sexual behaviour and ornamentation
  • Genotype-phenotype associations
  • Causes of genetic incompatibility
  • Benefits of promiscuity and mate choice
  • Assortative mating for quality
  • Causes of infertility and embryo mortality

Curriculum Vitae

Academic Education / Positions Held
Since 2008: Research scientist at the Department of Ornithology, Max Planck Institute for Biological Intelligence (formerly Max Planck Institute for Ornithology) Seewiesen
2004-2008: Emmy Noether Research Group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Seewiesen
2002-2004: Postdoc at Sheffield University, UK (Emmy Noether and Marie Curie Fellowships)
1998-2001: PhD at Würzburg University and Vogelwarte Radolfzell (advisors: Dr. Bernd Leisler and Prof. K. E. Linsenmair)
1992-1998: Diploma in Biology at Würzburg University

Professional Services and Awards
2012-2015: Editor for Behavioral Ecology
2006-2011: Member of the Junge Akademie
2003: Horst Wiehe Doctorate Prize (DZG)
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