• Correlativ light- and electron-microscopic image of mushroom body calyx tissue
Chair of Behavioral Physiology & Sociobiology

Rössler lab - Neuroethology of social insects

The enormous evolutionary success of social insects is mainly based on collective brood care and division of labor. Efficient communication systems, excellent orientation capabilities, and a high level of behavioral plasticity are important prerequisites supporting these features. Our research focuses on the underlying sensory and neuronal mechanisms aiming at a comprehensive understanding of social organization – from the level of molecular and cellular processes in the brain, to the control of individual behavior, and the evolution of neuronal mechanisms underlying social interactions. Social Hymenoptera (ants and bees) are our main experimental models for this integrative approach. By combining quantitative neuroanatomical methods, neurophysiology and molecular tools with behavioral analyses, we investigate neuronal mechanisms of chemical communication, olfactory coding, multimodal navigation and behavioral plasticity underlying division of labor, polyethism, learning and long-term memory. The following projects represent project areas – individual projects and methods are listed under the personal profiles of individual researchers.


  • Mechanisms and evolution of olfactory processing and chemical communication
  • Environmental and social influences on brain and behavior
  • Neuronal basis of visual navigation and plasticity
  • Cellular and molecular mechanisms of plasticity in synaptic microcircuits related to long-term memory
  • What is a „social brain“?

Selected publications

  • Habenstein, J., Amini, E., Grübel, K., el Jundi, B., and Rössler, W. (2020) The brain of Cataglyphis ants: neuronal organization and visual projections, Journal of Comparative Neurology 528, 3479– 3506.
  • Fleischmann, P. N., Grob, R., Müller, V. L., Wehner, R., and Rössler, W. (2018) The Geomagnetic Field Is a Compass Cue in Cataglyphis Ant Navigation, Current Biology 28, 1440–1444.
  • Brill, M., Meyer, A., and Rössler, W. (2015) It takes two - coincidence coding within the dual olfactory pathway of the honeybee, Frontiers in Physiology 6, 208.
  • Groh, C., Lu, Z., Meinertzhagen, I. A., and Rössler, W. (2012) Age-related plasticity in the synaptic ultrastructure of neurons in the mushroom body calyx of the adult honeybee Apis mellifera, The Journal of Comparative Neurology, Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company 520, 3509–3527.
  • Stieb, S. M., Hellwig, A., Wehner, R., and Rössler, W. (2012) Visual experience affects both behavioral and neuronal aspects in the individual life history of the desert ant Cataglyphis fortis, Developmental Neurobiology, Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company 72, 729–742.