Breeding behavior is tremendously diverse across animal species, but occasionally also variable within species. Among birds, the ruff (Philomachus pugnax) represents a very special case with three different reproductive phenotypes that are most prominent in males; lek-forming aggressive Independents, displaying and non-aggressive Satellites and female-mimicking Faeders. Interestingly, these morphs are fully genetically determined and each male morph has a respective female version. Thus, the ruff system represents a unique opportunity to understand how specific genetic sequences affect the physiological machinery in males and females, bridging genetics with behavior. Recently, the genetic differences between the morphs have been characterized at the level of the DNA sequence. Among the genes that show differences between morphs, several genes that are involved in regulation of steroid metabolism stand out. In my PhD project I aim to take this further and identify key differences in steroid hormone levels between morphs across different life stages and ultimately relate these to behavioral variation. For this, I will examine growth, steroid production, steroid receptors and expression of candidate genes in ruffs during development. Furthermore, I will investigate how the morphs affect the female reproductive phenotypes and test whether steroid allocation into eggs by females differs according to morph.
- Since 2017: PhD in avian endocrinology. Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Germany
- 2016: M.Sc. in Environmental Planning and Engineer Ecology, Technische Universität München, Germany
- 2012: Licenciate in Biology, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, Bolovia