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We are interested in the functional structure of relationships within a community, focusing particularly on the context of primate-plant interactions and host-parasite relationships.

Primate-plant interactions

Distribution over all tropical regions of the world, except Australia and Oceania, distinguishes primates from other tropical mammals. Within their tropical habitats, primates interact with a variety of organisms and carry out a multitude of environmental functions. One functional role of primates is their role as seed dispersers of those plant species they use for fruit consumption.
Therefore, seed dispersal is one of the foci of our department’s ecological studies. We combine observations with techniques of molecular genetics to determine the origin (mother tree) of seeds spread by primates.
This allows us to analyze the spatial patterns of seed dispersal and their consequences for plant populations.

Current Projects

Patterns, mechanisms, determinants and consequences of seed dispersal by tamarins and other Neotropical primates
(Long-term project; in cooperation with Laurence Culot, UNESP, Brazil)

Culot L, Huynen M-C, Heymann EW (2015) Partitioning the relative contribution of one-phase and two-phase seed dispersal when evaluating seed dispersal effectiveness. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 6: 178-186.

Culot L, Huynen M-C, Heymann EW (2018) Primates and dung beetles: two dispersers are better than one in secondary forest. International Journal of Primatology  (in Druck).

Heymann EW, Culot L, Knogge C, Noriega Piña TE, Tirado Herrera ER, Klapproth M, Zinner D (2017) Long-term consistency in spatial patterns of primate seed dispersal. Ecology and Evolution 7: 1435–1441.

Heymann EW, Culot L, Knogge C, Smith AC, Tirado Herrera ER, Müller B, Stojan-Dolar M, Lledo Ferrer Y, Kubisch P, Kupsch D, Slana D, Koopmann ML, Ziegenhagen B, Bialozyt R, Mengel C, Hambuckers J, Heer K (2019) Small Neotropical primates promote the natural regeneration of anthropogenically disturbed areas. Scientific Reports 9:10356.

Consequences of primate seed dispersal on the spatial-genetic structure of a Neotropical tree (Leonia cymosa)
(in cooperation with Katrin Heer, Philipps-University Marburg)

Gelmi-Candusso TAHeymann EW, Heer K (2017) Effects of zoochory on the spatial genetic structure of plant populations. Molecular Ecology 26: 5896–5910.

Gelmi-Candusso T, Bialozyt R, Slana D, Zárate Gómez R, Heymann EW, Heer K (2019) Estimating seed dispersal distance: a comparison of methods using animal movement and plant genetic data on two primate-dispersed Neotropical plant species. Ecology and Evolution 9:ece3.5422.

Vertical stratification of interactions between frugivorous and nectarivorous consumers and the cauligenous lianaMarcgravia longifolia
(in cooperation with Katrin Heer, Philipps-University Marburg; Marco Tschapka, University of Ulm; Ricardo Zárate, Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana, Iquitos, Peru)


Interspecific interactions and niche differentiation

In their complex tropical habitats primates interact with numerous other organisms. We are particularly interested in the formation of interspecific associations between primates and other animals and in mechanisms of niche differentiation between sympatric primate species.

Heymann EW, Hsia SS (2015) Unlike fellows - a review of primate-non-primate associations. Biological Reviews 90: 142-156.

Goodale E, Sridhar H, Sieving K, Bangal P, Colorado G, Farine D, Heymann EW, Jones H, Krams I, Martínez A, Montaño-Centellas F, Muñoz J, Srinivasan U, Theo A, Shanker K (2020) Mixed company: a framework for understanding the composition and organization of mixed-species animal groups. Biological Reviews (in press; doi: 10.1111/brv.12591)


Host-parasite relationships

Free-living primates are permanently exposed to a wide range of parasites that extract their hosts’ energy and sometimes trigger or transmit diseases.
Other microorganisms, however, can be very beneficial to the host, e.g. as part of the gastrointestinal microbiota. We are interested in the evolutionary race and relationship between primate hosts and their parasites, particularly in genetic and behavioral adjustments that primates use to decrease their parasitic infestation, and in the determinants of transmission and the composition of microorganisms in free-living lemur species.

Current Projects

Consequences of variation in group size on the health of Verreaux's Sifakas
(Katja Rudolph)

Social relationships: key to gut microbiome composition in wild red-fronted lemurs
(Tatiana Murillo Corrales, in collaboration with R. Daniel, University of Göttingen)

Hygienic behavior in gray mouse lemurs
(Clémence Poirotte)

Poirotte C, Kappeler PM (2019) Hygienic personalities in wild grey mouse lemurs vary adaptively with sex. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: 286

Consequences of telomere length variation in Labord's chameleon
(Falk Eckhardt)