Cognition and Communication 2

Cognitive biology seeks to understand cognition, communication and behavior in human and other animals, from both proximate (mechanistic and developmental) and ultimate (phylogenetic and adaptive) perspectives, and with a strong emphasis on experimental comparisons of multiple species (the comparative method). The purpose of the DK Program ‘Cognition and Communication 2’ is to synergize existing Viennese research strengths with PhD training opportunities, thus creating a world-class centre for educating the next generation of researchers in cognitive biology. We will prepare our students to excel in this competitive and highly interdisciplinary research area by focusing on rigorous experimental methods within a broad theoretical framework, grounded in evolutionary theory and the comparative method. PhD students in our program are trained in both field and laboratory research, experimental design, and comparative methodologies to address specific questions concerning neural, endocrine and cognitive mechanisms from developmental and evolutionary perspectives. They also receive thorough “soft skills” training in writing, communication, and interacting with press and public. Our program knits together separate groups at different universities, all of whom employ the “cognitive biology” approach, to create an unparalleled opportunity for PhD trainees to do excellent comparative research on a broad range of species with the full panoply of modern methods. Our program is flexible (encouraging innovation and motivation) but structured, with a strong emphasis on mentoring and monitoring. The program combines the expertise of ten internationally recognized researchers based both at the University of Vienna and the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. It thus knits several excellent existing groups together. PhD candidates in our program can take full advantage of the excellent research opportunities and facilities around Vienna, resulting from the collaboration of the two universities. Strong connections also exist with multiple international research centers, providing outstanding opportunities for exchange visits and postdoc options for our PhDs. Our international PhD candidates is also embedded in the framework of the newly created Vienna Doctoral School in Cognition, Behaviour and Neuroscience. The VDS aims to foster an excellent scientific environment, where doctoral candidates are able to develop and excel. Our goal is to provide the facilities and structured mentorship needed to successfully train and empower the next generation of PhD students to become independent, innovative and rigorous researchers meeting or exceeding the highest international standards.

Funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), Doctoral College (DK) W 1262-B29


Tecumseh Fitch (PI), University of Vienna
Thomas Bugnyar (Co-PI), University of Vienna
Leonida Fusani (Co-PI), University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
Claus Lamm (Co-PI), University of Vienna
Walter Hoedl (Co-PI), University of Vienna
Ludwig Huber (Co-PI), University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
Kurt Kotrschal (Co-PI), University of Vienna
Friederike Range (Co-PI), University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna
Angela Stoeger-Horwath (Co-PI), University of Vienna
Sabine Tebbich (Co-PI), University of Vienna

Publications supported by the grant

Spezie, G. and Fusani, L., 2022. Male–male associations in spotted bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus maculatus) exhibit attributes of courtship coalitions. Behavioral ecology and sociobiology76(7), pp.1-15. DOI

Spezie, G. and Fusani, L., 2022. Sneaky copulations by subordinate males suggest direct fitness benefits from male–male associations in spotted bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus maculatus). Ethology, published online. DOI

Spezie, G., Quigley, C. and Fusani, L., 2022. Learned components of courtship: A focus on postural displays, choreographies and construction abilities. Advances in the Study of Behavior, pp.43-108. Request PDF

Janisch, J., Perinot, E., Fusani, L. and Quigley, C., 2021. Deciphering choreographies of elaborate courtship displays of golden‐collared manakins using markerless motion capture. EthologyDOI

Janisch, J., Mitoyen, C., Perinot, E., Spezie, G., Fusani, L. and Quigley, C., 2021. Video Recording and Analysis of Avian Movements and Behavior: Insights from Courtship Case Studies. Integrative and comparative biology61(4), pp.1378-1393. DOI

Mitoyen, C., Quigley, C., Boehly, T. and Fusani, L., 2021. Female behaviour is differentially associated with specific components of multimodal courtship in ring doves. Animal Behaviour173, pp.21-39. DOI

Janisch, J., Perinot, E. and Fusani, L., 2020. Behavioural flexibility in the courtship dance of golden-collared manakins, Manacus vitellinusAnimal Behaviour166, pp.61-71. DOI

Mitoyen, C., Quigley, C. and Fusani, L., 2019. Evolution and function of multimodal courtship displays. Ethology125(8), pp.503-515. DOI