Livia Gerber


Research Interests

Cooperation is the foundation of all forms of life: genes cooperate to build genomes, cells cooperate in organisms, and organisms cooperate in social networks. Yet, the widespread phenomenon of cooperation is not completely understood. This particularly concerns cooperation among unrelated individuals or such in complex societies. Helping to solve the puzzle of cooperation is what motivated me for my PhD thesis.

Male alliances in bottlenose dolphins form one of the most remarkable and complex social system outside humans and provide a rare example of male cooperation. For my PhD I am combining over three decades of detailed behavioural observations and genomic data on the renowned Shark Bay dolphin population. This approach allows me to investigate partner choice and the adaptive benefits of male cooperation in an unprecedented way outside of the primate lineage.

Academic Record

MSc in Anthropology, University of Zurich, Switzerland 2011

MSc in Anthropology, University of Zurich, Switzerland 2011

PhD candidate, University of Zurich, Switzerland 2014 - ongoing

Researcher Bio

Male alliances in bottlenose dolphins are among the highest complex social structures found outside humans and provide a rare example of male cooperation. However, little is known about their formation and how males choose their partners. Cooperative behaviours are often favoured among kin as it allows the actors to benefit from inclusive fitness benefits. Whether kin selection explains alliance formation could not be answered reliably using classic genetic markers.
For my PhD project I will apply a genomics approach which allows us to investigate whether alliance formation is based on relatedness or other factors such as familiarity.

Male alliances in bottlenose dolphins form one of the most remarkable and complex social system outside humans and provide a rare example of male cooperation. For my PhD I am combining over three decades of detailed behavioural observations and genomic data on the renowned Shark Bay dolphin population. This approach allows me to investigate partner choice and the adaptive benefits of male cooperation in an unprecedented way outside of the primate lineage.

Publications

Gerber L., Connor R.C.C., King S.L., Allen S.J., Wittwer S., Bizzozzero M.R., Friedman W.R., Kalberer S., Sherwin W.B., Wild S., Willems E.P., Krützen M.: Affiliation history and age similarity predict alliance formation in adult male bottlenose dolphins. Behavioral Ecology (2019)

Wild S., Allen S.J., Krützen M., King S.L., Gerber L., Hoppitt W.J.E. Biology Letters (2019): Multi-network-based diffusion analysis reveals vertical cultural transmission of sponge tool use within dolphin matrilines. Biology Letters (2019).

Bizzozzero M.R., Allen S.J., Gerber L., Wild S., King S.L., Connor R.C.C., Friedman W.R., Wittwer S., Krützen M.: Tool use and social homophily among male bottlenose dolphins. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2019)

Wild S., Krützen M., Rankin R.W., Hoppitt W.J.E., Gerber L., Allen S.J.: Long-term decline in survival and reproduction of dolphins following a marine heatwave. Current Biology (2019)

Kedzierska K.Z., Gerber L., Krützen M., Ratan A., Kistler L.,: SONiCS: PCR stutter noise correction in genome-scale microsatellites. Bioinfomratics (2018)

King S.L., Friedman W.R., Allen S.J., Gerber L., Jensen F.H., Wittwer S., Connor R.C.C., Krützen M.: Bottlenose Dolphins Retain Individual Vocal Labels in Multi-level Alliances. Current Biology (2018)

Allen S.J., Bryant K.A., Kraus R.H., Loneragan N.R., Kopps A.M., Brown A.M., Gerber L., Krützen M.: Genetic isolation between coastal and fishery-impacted, offshore bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops spp.) populations. Molecular Ecology (2016)

Gerber L., Kruützen M., de Ruiter J.R., van Schaik C.P., van Noordwijk M.A.: Post-dispersal nepotism in male long-tailed macaques (Macaca fasicularis). Ecology and Evolution (2016).

Gosselin M.C., Neufeld E., Moser H., Huber E., Farcito S., Gerber L., Jedensjo M., Hilber I., Di Gennaro F., Lloyd B., Cherubini E., Szczerba D., Kainz W., Kuster N.: Development of a new generation of high-resolution anatomical models for medical device evaluation: the Virtual Population 3.0. Physics in Medicine and Biology (2014).