I am a behavioural biologist mainly interested in the function and mechanism of chemical communication, the evolution of chemical cues in vertebrates and how relatedness is encoded in body odours.
Thanks to a Freigeist Fellowship of the VolkswagenFoundation I am currently investigating the function and mechanism of olfactory kin recognition in zebra finches, trying to understand how relatedness is signaled in body odours. With a combination of behavioural experiments, chemical analysis of body odours and skin microbe community analysis I am aiming to gain knowledge on this question.
Since my PhD, which I did on” Olfactory communication in the greater sac-winged bat” at the Leibniz-Institute for Zoo- and Wildlife Research in Berlin, I am fascinated by that topic. Chemical communication or the transfer of information by chemical cues is the oldest and probably the most primitive way of communication and chemical communication is omnipresent around the animal kingdom. After my PhD, I switched from bats to salamanders and from Berlin to Bielefeld. In the group of Sebastian Steinfartz I investigated whether fire salamanders use odours for intraspecific communication, mate attraction and mate choice. During that time I also started the Avian Olfaction Project. Here I am mainly interested in the function and mechansim of olfactory communication in zebra finches. Birds in general and songbirds in particalur have long time been thought to be anosmic, however, meanwhile it is widly accepted that even birds have a good sense of smell. But we are still at the beginning to understand the information transferred by chemcial cues.
My main research projects are described below.
- Function and mechanism of olfactory kin reocgnition in a songbird, the zebra finch (Taeniopygia guttata) funded by a Freigeist Fellow (VolkswagenStiftung)
- The ontogeny of olfactory phenotypes in Galapagos sea lions.
- Olfactory communication in Antarctic fur seals (in cooperation with Joe Hoffmann, Bielefeld University)
- Mating strategies and the mechansims of speciation in the fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) funded by the DFG
email me: barbara.caspers (at) uni-bielefeld.de