Friederike Hillemann


Postdoctoral Researcher
Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology


I’m a behavioural ecologist with a specific interest in the ecology of social behaviour. I study how socio-ecological factors shape individuals' decisions in their everyday life, and the consequences of social associations on group-level outcomes, i.e. society structure and social transmission processes.

BSc and MSc research: animal behaviour, communication, and cognition
During my studies of (behavioural) biology at the University of Göttingen, I established a fundamental skillset for studying animal behaviour, communication, and cooperation. For example, I analysed post-conflict behaviour and reconciliation in wild Barbay macaques in the Moroccan Middle Atlas Mountains for my undergraduate dissertation project, and during my master's course I studied vocal communication and collective territory defense in a Spanish population of cooperatively breeding Carrion crows. Inbetween the BSc and MSC degree courses I conducted an internship at the Konrad Lorenz Research Center and I have since maintained an active collaboration with Claudia Wascher, working on social cognition in corvids (crows and ravens, Corvidae). For example, we compared different experimental paradigms to test individuals' ability to cope with delayed gratification, which is considered an important cognitive prerequisite for cooperative behaviours. Read lay summaries of our research and the finding that crows and ravens may forgo an immediate food reward and wait up to ten minutes in order to receive a more preferred quality food item, here or here.

PhD research: socio-ecological shaping mixed-species groups
During my DPhil at the University of Oxford's Edward Grey Institute of Field Ornithology, I studied how mixed-species groups are formed and maintained, linking individual behaviour to community processes. Specifically, I used mixed-species flocks of individually-marked (PIT-tagged) songbirds (tits, Paridae) in Wytham Woods near Oxford as a model system, and combined observational and experimental approaches to study transmission of social information and collective behaviour in heterogeneous groups. I developed a framework that is based on concepts of optimality to link processes of group formation to signalling theory and information use, and compared observed pattern of individuals’ social decisions to simulated processes for hypothesis testing. I also studied consistency in individuals’ social phenotypes, and how and why individuals differ in their social behaviours and network positions. Participation in mixed-species flocks is a complex balance of competition cost and grouping benefits, mediated by both individual phenotype and environmental conditions.
Read more about the Wytham Tit Project and our work on songbirds' social networks and data collection in the woods in this Audobon article.

Postdoctoral research: human behavioural ecology and food sharing networks
In July 2020, I joined the Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture at the MPI for Evolutionary Anthropology as a postdoctoral researcher, to study Inuit subsistence ecology. I work closely with Elspeth Ready to analyse data from an Inuit community in the Canadian Arctic, and my research will focus on foraging behaviour, multilayer food sharing networks, and the role of socioeconomic status, kinship, and environmental variability on subsistence decisions and household food security.


Hillemann F, Cole EF, Farine DR, Sheldon BC. Wild songbirds exhibit consistent individual differences in interspecific social behaviour. bioRxiv, doi: 10.1101/746545. [PDF]

Wascher CAF, Hillemann F. Observation of female-male mounting in the carrion crow. bioRxiv, doi: 10.1101/2020.05.26.116004. [PDF]

Susini I, Safryghin A, Hillemann F, Wascher CAF. Delay of gratification in non-human animals: A review of inter- and intra-specific variation in performance. bioRxiv, doi: 10.1101/2020.05.05.078659. [PDF]

Peer-reviewed Publications
Cantor M, Maldonado-Chaparro AA, Beck K, Brandl HB, Carter GG, He P, Hillemann F, Klarevas-Irby JA, Ogino M, Papageorgiou D, Prox L, Farine DR. 2020. Animal social networks: revealing the causes and implications of social structure in ecology and evolution. Journal of Animal Ecology, 00: 1-18, doi: 10.1111/1365-2656.13336. [PDF]

Hillemann F, Cole EF, Sheldon BC, Farine DR. 2020. Information use in foraging flocks of songbirds - no evidence for social transmission of patch quality. Animal Behaviour, 165: 35-41, doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2020.04.024. [PDF] [talk]

Hillemann F, Cole EF, Keen SC, Sheldon BC, Farine DR. 2019. Diurnal variation in the production of vocal information about food supports a model of social adjustment in wild songbirds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 286: 20182740, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2018.2740. [PDF]

Wascher CAF, Hillemann F, Canestrari D, Baglione V. 2015. Carrion crows learn to discriminate between calls of reliable and unreliable conspecifics. Animal Cognition, 18: 1181-1185, doi: 10.1007/s10071-015-0879-8. [PDF]

Hillemann F, Bugnyar T, Kotrschal K, Wascher CAF. 2014. Waiting for better, not for more: Corvids respond to quality in two delay maintenance tasks. Animal Behaviour, 90, 1-10, doi: 10.1016/j.anbehav.2014.01.007. [PDF]

    Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture
    Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
    Deutscher Platz 6, 04103 Leipzig, Germany