Martin Surbeck

Dr. Martin Surbeck

Assistant Professor (starting Fall 2019)
Martin Surbeck

Reproductive strategies are believed to be one of the major forces that shape the variability we observe in social organization among mammals. My research focuses on mechanisms of male mate competition in bonobos and its implications for the social relationships among males and between the sexes. The aim of current studies is to elucidate the role of intra- and intersexual relationships in the contexts of competition and cooperation. Behavioural observations and corresponding endocrinological data are used to investigate underlying mechanisms of mate competition and male mating strategies in relation to social parameters such as age, dominance status, and kinship.

In the beginning of 2016 I established a new bonobo research site at Kokolopori in collaboration with Bonobo Conservation Initiative (BCI) and Vie Sauvage. Through insights from this new site I hope to contribute to a better understanding of behavioural diversity within bonobos. Currently we are able to follow two habituated neighboring bonobo communities daily. Given the existence of two habituated communities with high range overlap, initial research will focus on the study of the poorly understood intercommunity relationships in bonobos. This is done in collaboration with Barbara Fruth and Gottfried Hohmann LuiKotale, Tobias Deschner, and the Centre de Surveillance de la Biodiversite at the University of Kisangani. 

In addition to exploring these questions, my current work takes a more comparative approach, as I am convinced we can infer more about processes and selective pressures in our evolutionary past by comparing chimpanzees and bonobos, than by studying a single species. I collaborate with chimpanzees researchers such as Christophe Boesch (Taï), Kevin Langergraber (Ngogo) and Catherine Crockford (Budongo, Taï). Furthermore, I established with Roman Wittig (Budongo, Taï) and Cedric Girard-Buttoz an identical data collection protocol for the bonobo site, LuiKotale, and the chimpanzee site, Taï.

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