Sofia Rizzi

Applied Zoology and Nature Conservation

Loitzer Str. 26
17489 Greifswald 

Tel.: +49 (0)3834 420-4354
Fax: +49 (0)3834 420-4252


Research Interests

Role of olfaction in bats’ social relationships

The vast majority of bat species show a high propensity for group living, with colonies varying enormously in size (from a few individuals to millions), stability and composition depending primarily on the species. Their social systems and breeding habits are often very complex and largely understudied. Due to their cryptic lifestyles and peculiar characteristics, bat behaviour is usually very difficult to study both in the field and in the laboratory.

Considered bats’ nocturnal habits, hearing and olfaction represent the most crucial senses in their everyday social life and communication. While vocal communication has received lots of attention, the role of olfaction in the social organization of bats remains poorly investigated. A thorough understanding of the role of odours in bat sociality would provide insights not only into the evolution of their complex social structures but also into the potential factors that could threaten the maintenance of such structures.
In this perspective, my PhD project is aimed at studying the role of olfaction in bat social relationships by focusing on Myotis bechsteinii, one of the most suitable species to investigate such processes. Female Bechstein’s bats always return to the maternity colony where they were born, forming strictly closed societies, in which immigration and emigration are extremely rare, but with inner fission-fusion dynamics. To investigate the role of odours in their social structure, I am planning to combine different methods, such as behavioural tests, passive monitoring of individual behaviour through RFID tags, gas-chromatography and mass spectrometry of their secretions, and genetic data to infer relatedness.  

Sexual selection, phenotypic plasticity and science popularization

My past experience revolved mainly around phenotypic plasticity in sexually selected traits in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata), including the analysis of sexual behaviour and sperm traits. In addition, as a board member of the Italian Society for Evolutionary Biology, I developed a keen interest in the communication and popularization of science.