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So far, variation in cognitive abilities has been studied mainly with regard to species differences. To this area of research, we contribute comparative data on the socio-cognitive plesiomorphy of basal primates.
We carry out these studies on lemurs held at the DPZ and Affenwald Straussberg, but also on several species in Madagascar.
Additionally, we study the causes and consequences of individual variation in cognitive abilities within primates and carnivores. To this end, we combine cognitive tests on wild animals with experiments to determine personality traits, as well as measurements of various fitness indices. Furthermore, we also examine how lemurs coordinate joint activities and how they resolve conflicts.

Current Projects

Socio-cognitive plesiomorphy of basal primates

Cognition in the wild

Group coordination and inter-group conflicts



Socio-cognitive plesiomorphy of basal primates

Kittler K, Kappeler PM, Fichtel C (2018) Instrumental problem solving in three lemur species. Journal of Comparative Psychology 302: 306-314

Cauchoix M, Chow PKY, van Horik JO, Atance CM, Barbeau EJ, Barragan-Jason G, Bize P, Boussard A, Buechel SD, Cabirol A, Cauchard L, Claidière N, Dalesman S, Devaud JM, Didic M, Doligez B, Fagot J, Fichtel C, Henke-von der Malsburg J, Hermer E, Huber L, Huebner F, Kappeler PM, Klein S, Langbein J, Langley EJG, Lea SEG, Lihoreau M, Lovlie H, Matzel LD, Nakagawa S, Nawroth C, Oesterwind S, Sauce B, Smith EA, Sorato E, Tebbich S, Wallis LJ, Whiteside MA, Wilkinson A, Chaine AS, Morand-Ferron J (2018) The repeatability of cognitive performance: a meta-analysis. Philosophical Transactions Royal Society B 373: 2017028


Cognition in the wild

Rasolofoniaina B, Fichtel C (in prep) Cognitive abilities of narrow-striped mongooses

Henke-von der Malsburg J, Fichtel C (2018) Are generalists more innovative than specialists? A comparison of innovative abilities in two wild sympatric mouse lemur species. Royal Society Open Science 5: 180480.

Huebner F, Fichtel C, Kappeler PM (2018) Linking cognition with fitness in a wild primate: fitness correlates of problem solving performance and spatial learning ability. Philosophical Transactions Royal Society B 373: 20170295.


Group coordination and inter-group conflicts

Yi Y, Fichtel C, Kim E, Choe JC (2020) Impacts of intergroup interactions on intragroup behavioral changes in Javan Gibbons (Hylobates moloch). International Journal of Primatology

Kappeler PM, Fichtel C, van Vugt M, Smith JE (2019) Female leadership: A transdisciplinary perspective. Evolutionary Anthropology 28: 160-163.

Fichtel C, Schnoell AV, Kappeler PM (2018) Measuring social tolerance – an experimental approach in two lemurid primates. Ethology 124: 65-73.

Koch F, Signer J, Kappeler PM, Fichtel C (2016) Intergroup encounters in Verreaux’s sifakas (Propithecus verreauxi): who fights and why? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 70: 797-808

Koch F, Signer J, Kappeler PM, Fichtel C (2016) The role of the residence-effect on the outcome of intergroup encounters in Verreaux’s sifakas. Scientific Reports 6: 28457

Sperber AV, Kappeler PM, Fichtel C (2019) Should I stay or should I go? Individual movement decisions during group departure in redfronted lemurs. Royal Open Science 6: 180991

Sperber AV, Werner L, Kappeler PM, Fichtel C (2017) Grunt to go – Vocal coordination of group movements in redfronted lemurs. Ethology 123: 894-905



Behavioral Biology

Evolution of social systems


Cognition & Coordination


Life history

Population ecology