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Dr. Simon Vitt

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter

Research Focus

I have finished my diploma study at the Institute for Evolutionary Biology and Ecology in April 2011. In my diploma thesis, I investigated the role of UV-signals in a shoal-choice-context by using the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus) as a model organism. Six populations originating from two different photic habitats located on the Outer Hebrides, Scotland, were used. The aim was to elucidate whether there was a difference in the use of UV-signals between turbid and clear lakes.

In my PhD thesis I continued to investigate the influence of UV-light on different morphological, physiological and behavioural aspects using the three-spined stickleback. Short term effects, like phenotypic plasticity, as well as long-term genetic impacts were evaluated by conducting mesocosm experiments. Since the beneficial effects of the ultraviolet waverange in visual communication have already been well investigated, I focused on the potential negative impacts of ultraviolet light. I specifically investigated the influence of UV-B radiation on reproductive traits in male sticklebacks, thereby taking up consequences of global climate change.

Currently, I am working in the group of Dr. Timo Thünken on the DFG-project “Inbreeding as driving force in evolution”. Inbreeding is often associated with costs in terms of inbreeding depression. However, theory predicts that inbreeding may also be beneficial as it can enhance inclusive fitness. Inbreeding increases the genetic relatedness between siblings and the inclusive fitness theory, i.e. kin selection theory, predicts relatedness to play a key role in evolution of social behavior by promoting grouping and cooperation. Using Pelvicachromis taeniatus, a socially monogamous cichlid fish with mating preference for closely related conspecifics, I am examining the effects of inbreeding and/or relatedness on social behavior and life history traits.


  • Vitt, S., Hiller, J. & Thünken, T. (2020) Kin competition increases male-male territorial aggression in a monogamous cichlid fish. Ecol Evol. 10:11183-11191
  • Vitt, S., Madge Pimentel, I. & Thünken, T. (2020) Presence of same-sex kin promotes explorative behavior in subadult cichlid fish. Behav. Ecol. 31:731-738
  • Vitt, S., Bakker, T. C. M. & Rick, I. P. (2020) Differential investment in pre- and post-mating male sexual traits in response to prolonged exposure to ambient UVB radiation in a fish. Sci. Total Environ. 712:136341
  • Vitt, S., Mehlis-Rick, M., Bakker, T. C. M. & Rick, I. P. (2019). Enhanced ambient UVB radiation affects post-mating, but not pre-mating sexual traits in a fish. Oecologia 190:355-366
  • Thünken, T., Vitt, S., Baldauf, S.A., Jung, T., & Frommen, J.G. (2018). Individual behavioural responses of an intermediate host to a manipulative acanthocephalan parasite and the effects of intra-specific parasite competition. Evol. Ecol. Res. 19:487-501
  • Rahn, A. K., Vitt, S., Drolshagen, L., Scharsack, J. P., Rick, I. P. & Bakker, T. C. M. (2017). Parasitic infection of the eye lens affects shoaling preferences in three-spined stickleback. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 123:377-387
  • Vitt, S., Zierul, J. E., Bakker, T. C. M. and Rick, I. P. (2017). Long-term UVB exposure promotes predator-inspection behaviour in a fish. Biology Letters 13:20170497.
  • Vitt, S., Rahn, A. K., Drolshagen, L., Bakker, T. C. M., Scharsack, J. P. & Rick, I. P. (2017). Enhanced ambient UVB light affects growth, body condition and the investment in innate and adaptive immunity in three-spined sticklebacks (Gasterosteus aculeatus). Aquat. Ecol. 51:499-509.
  • Hiermes, M., Vitt, S., Rick, I. P. & Bakker, T. C. M. (2015). Shoal choice and UV reflections in stickleback populations from different photic habitats. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. 116:761-772.

PhD Thesis

  • Vitt, S. (2020). The influence of environmental UVB radiation on growth, immunity, behavior and sexually selected traits in the three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)

Diploma Thesis

    • Vitt, S. (2010). Schwarmwahlverhalten des Dreistachligen Stichlings (Gasterosteus aculeatus) aus zwei Habitaten der Insel North Uist (Schottland) im Hinblick auf UV-Signale.