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Faculty for Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Evolutionary Animal Ecology - Prof. Dr. Sandra Steiger

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Maximilian KörnerDr.

Maximilian Körner

Research Associate

Phone: +49 921 55 2745
Room: NW I - 5.0.02.05
e-Mail: maximilian.koerner(at)uni-bayreuth.de


I am a researcher of social evolution and primarily interested in the role of social and individual immunity. Living socially is associated with intrinsically higher costs of pathogen and parasite defense as a result of higher density and frequent social contacts. As a result, we expect group-living species to develop effective strategies to lower these costs. These strategies may be reflected in changes to molecular or behavioral phenotypes, including communal efforts that benefit not just the actors but surrounding individuals as well. These collective mechanisms, known as social immunity, are well known to play a key role in maintaining complex social systems such as eusocial colonies or human society, but their role in the early evolution of emergent social behaviors and simple social groups is poorly understood. My work aims to shed light on the role of individual and social immunity in the net benefits conveyed to parents and offspring of relatively simple family groups. Specifically, I focus on burying beetle families in the genus Nicrophorus by investigating their life-history, behavior, immunity, and gene expression. These beetles feed and breed on carrion which represents a plethora of challenges including dealing with a hazardous microbiome and rapid decay. They successfully created a niche on this ephemeral resource by exhibiting complex parental care as well as some degrees of offspring cooperation, but naturally also compete over the limited resources, representing an ideal system to learn more about the role of communal immune defenses in early social evolution.

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