Dr. Gisela Kopp

Affiliated Scientist
IMPRS Faculty

Main Focus

The formation of societies by individual animals is one of the major transitions in evolution and has occurred independently and repeatedly across the animal kingdom. Much effort has been spent on understanding the causes for the evolution of sociality in general and specific forms of sociality in particular. The question whether sociality entails consequences in terms of evolutionary divergence has received less attention and our understanding of how different forms of sociality might influence macroevolutionary dynamics remains obscure.
Two lines of evidence support that sociality plays an important role in macroevolution. First, there is ample evidence that traits of animal societies directly influence population differentiation and genetic diversity. Population differentiation is a key step during speciation and factors affecting population differentiation may consequently impact speciation. Second, several studies show macroevolutionary consequences of differences in social system traits. However, there remains a lack of synthesis across disparate taxa and a coherent understanding of how sociality influences diversification is still missing.
We aim to fill these gaps and provide a nuanced understanding on the sociality-diversification link across the animal kingdom. Our conceptual framework pictures that different forms of sociality influence population differentiation and genetic diversity, which subsequently alter diversification rates.

Key questions

I. Which data and analyses are needed to efficiently describe diverse social systems across taxa in a quantitative way?
II. Do these descriptors consistently correlate with measures of genetic structure and diversity across taxa?
III. Is genetic structure and diversity a predictor of diversification and species richness?
IV. Do certain behavioural traits, through their effects on diversity and differentiation, impact diversification patterns on a macroevolutionary scale?

By formulating an explicit framework and addressing all the links within, we will reach a better understanding of the role of interspecific behavioural differences in population dynamics and speciation processes. The force of behavioural variation in macroevolution has been largely ignored and its appreciation will serve as a substantial complement to classical views on the causes of speciation. This will constitute an essential step towards understanding the complex interplay between ecology, social behaviour, and adaptive evolution and the underlying genomic processes.

To accomplish this, we combine meta-analyses across a diverse set of animals, with case studies, for which behavioural and genomic data is collected in wild populations.

Ongoing projects

Establishing fecalFACS as a method to investigate the genomic relatedness networks that underlie social interaction networks in natural animal populations (with Dr. U. Kalbitzer, PD D. Dechmann, MPI-AB)

How genomic relatedness within and across groups shapes the behavior of vulturine guineafowl (with Dr. D. Papageorgiou, Prof. D. Farine, University of Zurich)

The origin of Egyptian baboon mummies as revealed by a DNA analysis (with Prof. N. J. Dominy, Dartmouth College)

The impact of ranging behaviour on genetic diversity and structure in mammals (with Dr. K. Safi, MPI-AB; Dr. M. Tucker, Radboud University, Prof. T. Müller, BiK-F)

Evolutionary consequences of social system variation in primates (with Dr. H. Morlon, ENS Paris)

Population genomics of a fission-fusion society: the influence of relatedness on social networks in Thomson's Gazelles (with Dr. B. Costelloe, MPI-AB)

Comparative sociogenetics of sympatric neotropical bats (with PD D. Dechmann, MPI-AB)

Grants & awards

  • 2020-2025 Member of Die Junge Akademie
  • 2021 Medium money grant, Centre for the Advanced Study of Collective Behaviour, University of Konstanz
  • 2020-2022 Konstanzia Fellowship, University of Konstanz
  • 2018-2023 Hector Pioneer Fellowship, Hector Foundation II & University of Konstanz
  • 2018-2022 Flexible Working Conditions Grant for Researchers with Family Duties, University of Konstanz
  • 2017, 2018 Research Grant, Young Scholar Fund, University of Konstanz
  • 2017 Mentorship Grant, Zukunftskolleg/University of Konstanz
  • 2017 Interdisciplinary Collaboration Grant, Zukunftskolleg/University of Konstanz
  • 2017-2019 Postdoctoral fellowship of the Brigitte-Schlieben-Lange-Programme/Ministry of Science, Baden-Württemberg
  • 2016 Research grant, German Society for Mammalian Biology (PI Dr. R. Kraus)
  • 2016 DPZ Sponsorship Award for distinguished doctoral thesis, German Primate Center
  • 2014-2015 Stipend of the Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard-Foundation
  • 2012-2015 Research grant, The Leakey Foundation (PI Dr. D. Zinner)
  • 2010 Distinguished diploma thesis award, Gesellschaft für Primatologie
  • 2009 Field research grant, Christian-Vogel-Fonds
  • 2009 & 2012 DAAD field travel grant

Curriculum Vitae

  • Since 2018        Research Fellow, Zukunftskolleg & Dept. of Biology/University of Konstanz, and Max Planck Institute of Animal Behaviour
  • 2016-2018       Postdoc, University of Konstanz and Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, Radolfzell
  • 2010-2015        PhD in Biodiversity and Ecology, German Primate Center and University of Göttingen
  • 2004-2010        Diploma in Biology, University of Göttingen
  • 2004-2010        Research assistant, Cognitive Ethology Laboratory, German Primate Center, Göttingen
  • 2003/2004        Research assistant, Department of Primatology, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig
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