We study odor-directed behavior and its underlying neurobiological substrate in arthropods from a functional and evolutionary perspective. In drosophilid flies our main objective is to understand the evolution of olfactory functions. By studying closely related species living under different ecological conditions it is possible to understand how habitat and food-choice affect the sense of smell. We are also investigating the direct function of the Drosophila melanogaster olfactory system by looking at transduction mechanisms, coding and connectivity at different neural levels, as well as the behavioral outcome of olfactory processing. In sphingid moths we want to understand how different host plant associations have affected olfactory function and behavior. In crustaceans we study how the transition from an aquatic to a terrestrial life style has affected olfactory structure, function and behavior. In addition we are interested in different types of pollination systems, especially those built on deceit. In all these systems the complete neuroethological chain of events is studied, from single molecules and genes, to neurons, to whole organism responses. To perform this research we make use of modern neurobiological techniques as optical imaging, patch clamping, extra- and intracellular recording, and two photon confocal microscopy. We also use molecular techniques and bioinformatics. Behavioral responses are studied in the field, in wind tunnels and in laboratory bioassays. Project Groups

Prof. Bill S. Hansson

Director: Prof. Dr. Bill S. Hansson
+49 (0) 3641 57 1400



Swetlana Laubrich

Department Assistant:
Swetlana Laubrich
Phone: +49 (0) 3641 57 1401

Project Groups in the Department of Evolutionary Neuroethology

Dieter Wicher

Olfactory receptors play an important role in adaptation of a species to ecological niches. Insect olfactory receptors are different in two aspects from vertebrate and other invertebrate olfactory receptors which belong to the family of G protein coupled receptors (GPCRs). First, they form dimers composed of one odour-specific protein and one ubiquitous protein forming an ion channel. Second, compared with classical GPCRs the topology of the insect receptor proteins appears to be inverted. more »

Jürgen Rybak

The neural basis of olfaction is studied from a morphological, functional and evolutionary perspective. We are examining the olfactory systems of flies, moth, locust, ants and different crustacean species. Our key techniques are confocal and functional imaging (conventional and 2-photon) as well as electron microscopy to analyze the neural circuitry involved in olfaction in the arthropod brain. more »

Ewald Grosse-Wilde

The composition of odor bouquets contains important cues to the composition of the environment. Therefore, the potentially large number of different volatiles encountered by animals has to be encoded in action potentials in the nervous system to facilitate the analysis of its chemical composition. This function is provided by proteins involved in olfactory signal transduction. more »

Bill S. Hansson

A central question of the group concerns how olfactory systems adapt to the habitat and needs of the animal. We are especially interested in how extreme specialization affects the sense of smell, from the behavioral to the molecular. We are mainly using drosophilid flies as models, but we are also studying other arthropods, including e.g. the giant robber crab (Birgus latro). more »

Markus Knaden

My group investigates how odors affect the behavior of animals as different as vinegar flies, sphingid moths, desert ants, and hermit crabs. We try to understand the basic principles of olfaction either in an evolutionary approach, a neurophysiological approach and an ethological approach. more »

Sofia Lavista-Llanos

Our aim is to get hold of the neural mechanisms and genetic basis sustaining chemosensory behavior in the model organism Drosophila melanogaster, and in closely related species living under different ecological conditions. We make use of powerful, genetically encoded tools to manipulate and monitor gene expression and neuronal function in the fly. more »