Dr. Wolfgang Forstmeier


82319 Seewiesen


Dr. Wolfgang Forstmeier

Dr. Wolfgang Forstmeier

Dr. Wolfgang Forstmeier


Research Scientist


  • +49 8157 932-346



Main Focus

  • Evolutionary Genetics
  • Behavioural Ecology
  • Mating strategies
  • Sexual behaviour
  • Infertility
  • Embryo mortality
Our research group studies the quantitative and molecular genetics of sexual behaviour in the zebra finch to address fundamental questions in evolutionary biology. One of our 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
Group members
  • Daiping Wang, PhD student since September 2014, "Can female promiscuity evolve via indirect selection on male sex-drive?"
  • Malika Ihle, PhD student since September 2010, "Benefits of mate choice"
  • Ulrich Knief, PhD student since September 2010, "Molecular genetics of morphology and compatibility"
  • Katrin Martin, Diploma June 2008, "Inbreeding avoidance in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata)", now technical assistant since October 2008
  • Melanie Schneider, technical assistant since May 2005
Former group members
  • Elisabeth Bolund, PhD in March 2009, "Condition dependence and fitness consequences of sexual traits in zebra finches", EES award of the LMU Munich, now Postdoc with Virpi Lumma (Sheffield) working on sexual antagonism
  • Holger Schielzeth, PhD in December 2008, "Causes of between-individual differences in mating preferences", now Junior Research Group Leader (Emmy Noether Fellowship) at Bielefeld University
  • Thibaud Aronson, MSc in September 2013, "Quality manipulation and mate choice in wild-derived zebra finches"
  • Johannes Schreiber, MSc in November 2012, "Effects of variation in genetic quality on sexual behaviour and fitness in zebra finches"
  • Aurelie Seguin, MSc in June 2010, "Colour-ring effects on male zebra finches"
  • Sanja Janker, Diploma in December 2009, "Inbreeding depression in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata)"
  • Claudia Burger, Diploma October 2006, "Kin recognition in the absence of social learning in the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata)", now doing her PhD with Christiaan Both (Groningen)

Curriculum Vitae

Academic Education / Positions Held
Since 2008: Research scientist at the Dept. of Behavioural Ecology and Evolutionary Genetics, MPIO Seewiesen
2004-2008: Emmy Noether Research Group leader at the MPIO 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
Since 2012: Editor for Behavioral Ecology
2006-2011: Member of the Junge Akademie
2003: Horst Wiehe Doctorate Prize (DZG)

Organizational Unit (Department, Group, Facility):

  • Department Kempenaers
  • IMPRS Faculty
  • MPI for Ornithology Seewiesen
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