Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna
I am interested in questions relative to sexual selection, with a focus on male complex courtship displays. Multimodal signals, i.e. signals occurring in more than one sensory modality, are very common among animals but we still do not fully understand their functions. I try to explain the prevalence of multimodal signals in the context of courtship communication by studying the function of the different components of courtship as well as the information contained in the interaction between those components. I am using audio-video recording methods to assess inter-individual variation in male courtship components and overall courtship structure and to study how this variation influences female behavioural and physiological response.
Thesis Project: Decoding the value of courtship signals by integrated audio-visual analysis
During courtship, single signals occurring in different sensory modalities are often combined into complex multimodal signals. So far, most research on sexual selection has focused on the information carried by individual components of male courtship and how this influence female preference. Few studies investigated the structure of the courtship signal itself. For example, the effects of variation in courtship signal component parameters like velocity, duration, or frequency on female response has not been well researched. Additionally, recent studies have shown that the response to a multi-component signal is typically not additive, stressing the fact that information might be contained in the interaction between different components. In the ring dove (Streptopelia risoria), males court females with a simple multi-sensory display, composed of a visual part, the bow, in which the male bends towards the ground facing the female, and an acoustic part, the coo-call. We are using an experimental setup to video and audio record male and female ring doves during courtship interactions and a software to semi-automatically track body movements of both males and females. Additionally, I will use playback tests with manipulated audio-video stimuli to investigate how variation in postural and vocal features of male courtship and overall courtship structure affect female behavioural and physiological response.
Supported by the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna, and the University of Vienna.