• Bumblebee (<i>Bombus lucorum</i>) flies mit extended tongue towards a plantain flower (<i>Plantago</i>)
Chair of Behavioral Physiology & Sociobiology

Spaethe lab - Sensory ecology

The field of sensory ecology aims to understand how organisms of all kinds obtain and use information about their environment. The sensory organs provide the only means of communication from the environment to the nervous system. Thus, the sensory systems of a species can be understood as a result of the interaction between the species and its specific environment in the course of evolution.

Our group is interested in the function, development and evolution of the visual system in insects. Using a comparative approach, we investigate the reception and neuronal processing of visual information and its evolution in various hymenopterans (bees, wasps, ants, sawflies), but also in beetles (Coleoptera) and water bears (Tardigrada). Further, we are interested in the function and evolution of visual signals in flower-pollinator interactions.


  • Mechanisms and evolution of visual perception
  • Psychophysics of colour vision
  • Visual learning and memory
  • Mechanisms and evolution of visual signals in flower-pollinator interaction
  • Sensory perception in water bears

Selected publications

  • Yilmaz, A., Dyer, A. G., Rössler, W., and Spaethe, J. (2017) Innate colour preference, individual learning and memory retention in the ant Camponotus blandus, Journal of Experimental Biology, The Company of Biologists Ltd 220, 3315–3326.
  • Sommerlandt, F. M. J., Rössler, W., and Spaethe, J. (2017) Impact of light and alarm pheromone on immediate early gene expression in the European honeybee, Apis mellifera, Entomological Science 20, 122–126.
  • Sommerlandt, F. M. J., Spaethe, J., Rössler, W., and Dyer, A. G. (2016) Does Fine Color Discrimination Learning in Free-Flying Honeybees Change Mushroom-Body Calyx Neuroarchitecture?, PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science 11, 1–17.
  • Lichtenstein, L., Sommerlandt, F. M. J., and Spaethe, J. (2015) Dumb and Lazy? A Comparison of Color Learning and Memory Retrieval in Drones and Workers of the Buff-Tailed Bumblebee, Bombus terrestris, by Means of PER Conditioning, PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science 10, 1–18.
  • Sommerlandt, F. M. J., Huber, W., and Spaethe, J. (2014) Social Information in the Stingless Bee, Trigona corvina Cockerell (Hymenoptera: Apidae): The Use of Visual and Olfactory Cues at the Food Site, Sociobiology 61, 401–406.