Resources fluctuate in their availability daily, seasonally and sometimes unpredictably. We are interested in the strategies animals have developed to deal with this, especially long and short distance movement, and how this can be optimized by social information transfer and alternative strategies in animals that cannot follow resources through movement behavior such as migration.
Eidolon may (still) be the most numerous mammal of Africa and yet what we know about this bat barely scratches the surface. We study the unique long-distance migration of this species in one of the ICARUS pilot projects. We aim to understand how individual decisions lead to this massive movement across the African continent, how this is driven by environmental factors, but facilitated by using gigantic colonies as exploded information networks. By feeding our data and conclusions into studies about the spread of human relevant diseases this will also contribute to a better assessment of the actual role fruit bats play in this globally important topic
We study bats that are highly specialized on ephemeral resources. How does the availability of resources in time and space affect foraging efficiency and how is this optimized through information transfer, using different modalities and how, in turn is this linked to the metabolism and physiology of the bats?
Most of our work focuses on bats, which can fly and thus cover distances of up to several thousand kilometers to escape food shortage or harsh conditions. But what does a small mammal do in the temperate zones when the seasons become difficult? In a project focusing on red-toothed shrews we study Dehnel's Phenomenon - a reversible individual size change that includes mass, size, the skull, several major organs and especially our focal one - the brain. Currently we study this phenomenon in a Human Frontiers-funded collaboration with Liliana Davalos, John Nieland and Dominik von Elverfeldt.
Ecology, sociality and the evolution of brain size
Combining all of the interests outlined in our other projects we also study the evolution of brain size from a phylogenetically comparative angle. Using published data, topped up by data we collect ourselves, employing phylogenetically-corrected methods we explore how tightly adapted bats are to their ecological niche. With Kamran Safi and Jeroen Smaers we are interested in understanding the patterns of evolution that led to bats radiating across our planet today.