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PD Dr. Timo Thünken

Evolutionary Behavioural Ecology

I am mainly interested in functions and mechanisms of kin discrimination. In particular, my research focuses on kin recognition mechanisms and the operation of kin selection in different contexts ranging from juvenile shoaling over intra-sexual competition to mate-choice and parental care. As model system I use Pelvicachromis taeniatus, a socially monogamous cichlid fish with intense biparental brood care from West Africa. The unusual kin mating preferences in this species provide the possibility to examine the ecological and genetic requirements for adaptive inbreeding. In this context, also levels of inbreeding in natural populations using microsatellites are estimated.

Pelvicachromis taeniatus

A further research focus lies on the function of (especially female) conspicuous body colouration in sexual selection and the evolution of sperm traits in Pelvicachromis taeniatus.

Moreover, I am interested in predator-induced behavioural and morphological plasticity (based on chemical cues) as well as in host/parasitic interactions in gammarids and their acanthocephalan parasites.

Thünken Lab - Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology of Cichlid Fishes

Current lab members (2023)

  • Timo Thünken (group leader)
  • Christina Bakowski (Master OEP, free module)
  • Luka Schmuth (Bachelor Biology)
  • Jannis Loehr (Bachelor Biology)
  • Melina Preis (Bachelor Biology)
  • Tisa Maas-Timpert (Bachelor Biology)
  • Annika Steinert (Bachelor Biology, September)
  • Anastasiya Chirkina (Bachelor Biology, August)
  • Maren Zacke (Bachelor Biology, August)
  • Yeliz Eroglu (Bachelor Biology, 2023, May)

Previous lab members


  • Simon Vitt (Postdoc)
  • Isabell Pfankuchen (Master OEP, free module, 2022, Feb)
  • Marcellina Rola (Master OEP, free module, 2022, Feb)
  • Leonie Gussone (Master OEP, free module, 2022, Feb)
  • Ulas Okuducu  (Bachelor Biology, 2022 Dec)
  • Elias Fritzsche (Bachelor Biology, 2022 Nov)
  • Elisabeth Gaertner (Bachelor Biology, 2022 Sept)
  • Anna Günther (Bachelor Biology, 2022 Sept)
  • Hannah Beck (Bachelor Biology, 2022 Sept)
  • Marie Holtmann (Bachelor Biology, 2022 Aug)


  • Zeynep Oğuzhan (Master OEP, 2021 Oct, shared supervision with A. Böhne, ZFMK)
  • Shannon Douglas (Master OEP, 2021 Aug)
  • Vanessa Trausch (Bachelor Biology, 2021 Sept)
  • Anna Hüllen (Bachelor Biology, 2021 Sept)
  • Alexander Keller (Bachelor Biology, 2021 Sept)
  • Christina Bakowski (Bachelor Biology, 2021Jun)
  • Rieke Schons (Master OEP, 2021 Mar)


  • Iris Madge Pimentel (Master OEP, 2020 Aug)
  • Lisa Nennstiel (Bachelor Biology, 2020 Mar)
  • Lina Read (Bachelor Biology, 2020 Aug)
  • Lilith Frings (Bachelor Biology, 2020 Sep)
  • Dr. Denis Meuthen (DFG Rückkehrstipendiat)
  • Barbara Schiffer (Master OEP, 2019 Oct)
  • Leonie John (Master OEP, 2019 Sep)
  • Melissa Karthe (Bachelor Biology, 2019 Sep)
  • Janosch Diederich (Bachelor Biology, 2019 Sep)
  • Sophia Fiegel (Bachelor Biology, 2019 Sep)
  • Jenny Hiller (Master of Education, 2019 Jan)
  • Ndubuisi Durueke (Master OEP, 2018 Oct)
  • Rieke Schons (Bachelor Biology, 2018 Sep)
  • Christine Jakubassa (Bachelor Biology, 2018 Sep)
  • Natalie Kurtys (Bachelor Biology, 2018 Sep)
  • Meike Kurth (Master OEP, 2017 Jun)
  • Tamara Gademann (Bachelor Biology, 2017 Aug)
  • Tina Jung (Bachelor Biology, 2017 Sep)

Current cooperation partners

  • Dr. Ingolf Rick, University of Bonn
  • PD Dr. Joachim Frommen, Metropolitan University of Manchester (UK)
  • Dr. Julia Schwarzer, ZFMK, Bonn
  • PD Dr. Fabian Herder, ZFMK, Bonn
  • Dr. Astrid Boehne, ZFMK, Bonn
  • Dr. Ulrike Scherer, Universität Hamburg
  • Dr. Alexander Kotrschal, University of Wageningen (NL)

Research projects on P. taeniatus

  • Ongoing: Inbreeding as driving force in evolution (DFG grant to T. Thünken)
    Head: Dr. Timo Thünken
    See current lab members
  • Causes and consequences of predator-induced phenotypic plasticity
    (DFG grant to T. Bakker, T. Thünken, S. Baldauf)
    Heads: Prof. Theo Bakker and Dr. Timo Thünken
    PhD student: Denis Meuthen
    Master students: Natalie Müller                                                                    
  • Ecology of kin-biased behaviour (DFG grant to T. Thünken)
    Head: Dr. Timo Thünken
    PhD student:  Saskia Hesse (PhD supervisor: Prof. Theo Bakker)
    Master students: Sarah Schroers, Jaime Mauricio Anaya-Rojas
  • Impact of genetic relatedness and female coloration on mutual mate choice in Pelvicachromis taeniatus (Cichlidae) III (DFG grant to T. Bakker and H. Kullmann)
    Head: Prof. Theo Bakker
    Project coordination: Dr. Timo Thünken (Post Doc)
    Post Doc: Dr. Sebastian Baldauf
    PhD students: Sebastian Baldauf, Kathrin Langen
    Master students: Kathrin Langen, Saskia Hesse, Denis Meuthen, Stephanie Schroth, Janine Schmidt, Tobias Ottenheym
  • Impact of genetic relatedness and female coloration on mutual mate choice in Pelvicachromis taeniatus (Cichlidae), phase I+II (DFG grant to T. Bakker and H. Kullmann)
    Heads: Prof. Theo Bakker and Dr. Harald Kullmann
    PhD student/establishment of P. taeniatus as model system: Timo Thünken
    Master students: Sebastian Baldauf, Nadine Waltschyk



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