Michael Gerhard Schöner

Applied Zoology and Nature Conservation

Johann-Sebastian-Bach-Str. 11/12
17489 Greifswald

Tel.: +49 (0)3834 420-4273
Fax: +49 (0)3834 420-4252

Research Interests

I am generally interested in functional ecology and its relevance for interspecific interactions with a focus on sensory ecology, roosting ecology, and tropical biology. For my research I am applying a broad variety of methodological approaches such as bioacoustics, population genetics, and stable isotope analyses. Furthermore, I am trying to improve processes to communicate and share scientific knowledge with the public. A selection of my research interests can be found below.

The Importance of Functional Traits for the Stabilization of Mutualisms

Mutualistic interactions are major drivers of evolution. However, how they evolve and which mechanisms stabilise them is largely unknown. Using the interaction between the foliage-roosting bat species Kerivoula hardwickii and their mutualistic plant partner Nepenthes hemsleyana as a model system, I am testing different hypothesis regarding functional traits of both partners that stabilise their interaction. During my PhD (submitted) I focused on morphological, communicational and behavioural traits. The mutualism is asymmetric: The pitcher plants strongly rely on the bats, whose faeces are the most important nutrient source for the plants. This coprophagous nutrient acquisition strategy seems to be so efficient that the plants gave up important traits of arthropod attraction and outsourced capturing and pre-digestion of prey to their bat partners. The bats, in contrast, are less depending on N. hemsleyana as they additionally roost in other pitcher plant species and in developing furled leaves of different plant species. Together with my international collaborators I found that this asymmetric dependency is reflected in the specifity and function of the traits that stabilize the mutualism in each of the two involved species. Especially on the morphological level, N. hemsleyana seems to have evolved several traits that perfectly fit to K. hardwickii (i.e. a pitcher shape and fluid level that perfectly fits to the solitary roosting bats and an echoreflecting structures that is highly effective in attracting the echolocating bats resulting in high-quality roosts). In contrast, the bats’ traits more generally facilitate their roosting in funnel-shaped plant structures and their occurrence in cluttered habitats (i.e. broadband echolocation calls with extraordinary high starting frequencies and morphological traits that facilitate in slippery plant structures).Thus, they are probably exaptations (i.e. traits that evolved for another reason) that are nevertheless functional and stabilise the mutualism with N. hemsleyana. This plant‘s superior roost quality is likely a consequence of the competition with alternative roosting plants and helps N. hemsleyana that the bats prefer it. Moreover, my study confirms earlier findings that asymmetric dependencies support the stabilisation of mutualistic interactions. Finally, my work indicates that the specifity of functional traits can be used as a measure to determine mutual dependencies of mutualistic partners. In a future project I will transfer my predictions to the interaction between ants (Camponotus spp.) and the rattan palm Korthalsia robusta

The Importance of Sensory Ecology and Communication for Roost Finding in Bats

Many bat species regularly need to find new day roosts that, e.g., offer protection from predators and adverse climatic conditions.It has been shown that bats exchange information about roosts among colony members, and use echolocation and social calls of conspecifics in order to find roosts. However, how bats initially find new roosts and the role of inter- and intraspecific communication (including eavesdropping) still presents a puzzle. Investigating the sensory traits of various bat species that use different roosts (e.g., tree holes, bat boxes, furled leaves, carnivorous pitcher plants) in different regions (Germany, Borneo, Costa Rica) and using playback experiments my collaborators and I try to shed light on that field of bat ecology.

The Importance of Public Participation for Science

In recent years skepticism against scientific findings has been raised by broad parts of society. Academia has been called to raise awareness to this trend and to leave its ivory tower where science is only shared among experts. One solution to this problem is "Citizen Science" that invites interested citizens to participate in the process of gaining new scientific knowledge. However, in many projects Citizen Scientists were only involved in data collection but had no chance in participating the whole scientific process, i.e. observation, raising questions, building hypothesis and trying to answer the questions on basis of collected data. With our project "FUN" we are trying to close that gap. This project aims at various groups of age and societies. Thus, we are also collaborating with schools that are interested in testing teaching concepts that focus on the scientific practice.

Publications and Conference Contributions

  • Schöner, C.R., Schöner, M.G., Grafe, T.U., Clarke, C.M., Dombrowski, L., Tan, M.C. & Kerth, G. (2017): Ecological outsourcing: a pitcher plant benefits from transferring pre-digestion of prey to a bat mutualist. Journal of Ecology 105: 400-411.
  • Schöner, M.G., Schöner, C.R., Kerth, G., Ji, L.L. & Grafe, T.U. (2016): Bats attend to plant structures to identify roosting sites. Acta Chiropterologica 18: 433-440.
  • Schöner, M.G., Simon, R. & Schöner, C.R. (2016): Acoustic communication in plant - animal interactions. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 32: 88-95.
  • Struebig, M.J., Huang, J.C.-C.H., Mohamed, N.Z., Noerfahmy, S., Schöner, C.R., Schöner, M.G. & Francis, C.M. (2016): Forest surveys extend the range of the Krau woolly bat (Kerivoula krauensis) in the Malay-Thai Peninsula, Borneo and Sumatra. Mammalia online early.
  • Lim, Y. S., C. R. Schöner, M. G. Schöner, G. Kerth, D. G. Thornham, M. Scharmann & T. U. Grafe (2015): How a pitcher plant facilitates roosting of mutualistic woolly bats. Evolutionary Ecology Research 16: 581–591.
  • Schöner, M. G., C. R. Schöner, R. Simon, T. U. Grafe, S. J. Puechmaille, L. L. Ji & G. Kerth (2015): Bats are acoustically attracted to mutualistic carnivorous plants. Current Biology 25: 1-6.
  • Schöner, C. R., M. G. Schöner, G. Kerth, S. N. Suhaini & T. U. Grafe (2015): Low costs reinforce the mutualism between bats and pitcher plants. Zoologischer Anzeiger - A Journal of Comparative Zoology 258: 1-5.
  • Schöner, C. R., M. G. Schöner, G. Kerth & T. U. Grafe (2013): Supply determines demand: Influence of partner quality and quantity on the interactions between bats and pitcher plants. Oecologia 173: 191-202x.
  • Schöner, C. R. & M. G. Schöner (2013): Batty and Pitty. Children’s story. Illustrated by Claudia Spitzkopf and Robin Schöfer. Free download: www.seabcru.org/outreach/brunei-outreach-materials.
  • Schöner, M. G. & C. R. Schöner (2013): Symbiotischer Untermieter gesucht. Hardwicke-Wollfledermäuse schlafen in fleischfressenden Pflanzen. Hundkatzepferd. Das Fachmagazin für den Tierarzt. 6: 2-4.
  • Schöner, M. G. & C. R. Schöner (2012): Fledermausporträt: Hardwicke-Wollfledermaus, Kerivoula hardwickii (Horsefield, 1824). Nyctalus (N.F.) 17: 400-404.
  • Schöner, C. R. & M. G. Schöner (2012): Living inside a deadly trap. Woolly bats use carnivorous pitcher plants as roosts. Bats 30 (3): 2-3.
  • Grafe, T. U., C. R. Schöner, A. Junaidi, G. Kerth & M. G. Schöner (2011): A novel resource-service mutualism between bats and pitcher plants. Biology Letters 7: 436-439.
  • Schöner, C. R., M. G. Schöner & G. Kerth (2010): Similar is not the same: Social calls of conspecifics are more effective in attracting wild bats to day roosts than those of other bat species. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 46: 2053-2063.
  • "Forschung. Umweltbildung. Naturschutz - Mit FUN in die Wildnis!" - Tagung der deutschen Fledermausforscher Vallendar (2017)
  • Invited talk: "Carnivorous plants acoustically attract mutualistic bats" - Symposium des Zoologischen Instituts und Museums, Greifswald anlässlich der Preisverleihung des Lothar-Kämpfe-Publikationspreises (2016)
  • Invited talk: "Mutualistische Interaktionen zwischen Fledermäusen und Kannenpflanzen" - Zoologische Gesellschaft Zürich (2015)
  • Invited plenary talk: "Von Fledermäusen und Kannenpflanzen" - Herbsttagung des Arbeitskreises Fledermäuse Sachsen-Anhalt e.V., Schloss Mansfeld (2015)
  • Invited talk: "The Mutualism between Bats and Pitcher Plants" - University of Bristol (2015)
  • Attractive and unmistakably: How pitcher attributes of carnivorous plants appeal to bats” – Annual Conference of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), Cairns/Australien (2014)
  • “The Bornean pitcher plant Nepenthes hemsleyana – its natural history and interaction with a bat mutualist” –  Annual Conference of the International Carnivorous Plant Society (ICPS), Cairns/Australien (2014)
  • Invited talk: "Biology of Foliage-Roosting Bats" - Gunung Mulu World Heritage Center, Sarawak/Malaysia (2014)
  • Invited talk: “Kannenpflanzen-Tier-Interaktionen” – öffentlicher Vortrag und Führung am Botanischen Garten der Universität Greifswald (2014)
  • “Plant searches Lodger: Echo-acoustic adaptations in a bat-pitcher plant-mutualism“ – Zoologisches Kolloquium der Universität Greifswald (2014)
  • “Borneo – a threatened paradise“ – Gastvortrag in der Naturschutzvorlesung von Professor Kerth (2014)
  • “Echo-acoustic adaptions in a bat-pitcher plant-mutualism” – 16th International Bat Research Conference, San José/Costa Rica (2013)
  • “Interactions between bats and pitcher plants” – Tagung der deutschen Fledermausforscher Ergenzingen (2013)
  • “Bats and Pitcher Plants“ – Brunei Nature Society, Bandar Seri Begawan/Brunei (2012)
  • “Ab in die Falle! Interaktionen zwischen fleischfressenden Kannenpflanzen und Fledermäusen” – Symposium des Zoologischen Instituts der Universität Greifswald (2012)
  • "Interactions between bats and pitcher plants" - 21st Graduate Meeting of the Sections Evolutionary Biology and Ecology of the German Zoological Society, Greifswald (2016).
  • "Carnivorous Plants Echo the Calls of Bats to Advertise their Pitchers as Roosts" -  4th International Berlin Bat Meeting (2015) - Awarded with the first poster price of the meeting
  • "Bats Feed Pitcher Plants with their Faeces - Feeding Experiments Reveal the Plant's Benefits" - 4th International Berlin Bat Meeting (2015) - Awarded with the second poster price of the meeting
  • "Bats Feed Pitcher Plants with their Faeces - Feeding Experiments Reveal the Plant's Benefits" - Annual Conference of the Association of Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC), Cairns/Australien (2014)
  • „Interactions between bats and pitcher plants in Borneo’s threatened peat swamp forests” – Umweltaktionstag Greifswald (2013)
  • „Interactions between bats and pitcher plants in Borneo’s threat-ened peat swamp forests” – 3rd International Berlin Bat Meeting (2013) - Awarded with the first poster price of the meeting
  • “Fission-fusion in three colonies of brown long-eared bats (Plecotus auritus)” – Tagung der deutschen Fledermausforscher Herrenchiemsee (2009)

Curriculum Vitae

since 2007 married with Caroline Schöner, one daughter
since 03/2017 Scientific Associate "Forschung. Umweltbildung. Naturschutz - Mit FUN in die Wildnis!" (DBU), University of Greifswald
2012-2017 PhD thesis (submitted) "Stabilization of a Bat-Pitcher Plant Mutualism", University of Greifswald
2015-2017 Coordinator of the research training group "Biological RESPONSEs to Novel and Changing Environments" (DFG), University of Greifswald
2015-2016 Management of the Coordination Group for the Education of Teachers, University of Greifswald
2014-2015 Scientific Associate "Bats and Wind Turbines" (BMBF), University of Erlangen
2011-2014 Scientific Assistant at the Zoological Institute and Museum, University of Greifswald
2009-2014 Scholarships of the German Academic Exchange Servie (DAAD)
2004-2011 Studies of Biology, German, History and Philosophy (Magister Artium, Teaching degree), University of Würzburg
Field Research
01/2017–03/2017 Biological field research in Costa Rica
02/2016–02/2016 Biological field research in Sarawak/Malaysia
04/2014–09/2014 Biological field research in Brunei Darussalam and Sarawak/Malaysia
09/2013 Biological field trip to Bulgaria
08/2013 Biological field trip to Costa Rica
06/2012–12/2012 Biological field research in Brunei Darussalam and Sarawak/Malaysia
08/2011–01/2012 Biological field research in Brunei Darussalam
06/2009–08/2009 Biological field research in Brunei Darussalam
2008-2009 Biological field research in Würzburg and Spessart
  • Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC)
  • Brunei Nature Society (BNS)
  • Deutsche Zoologische Gesellschaft (DZG)
  • Mediävistenverband e.V.
  • South East Asian Bat Conservation Research Unit (SEABCRU)
  • IUCN SSC Carnivorous Plants
  • Lothar Kämpfe Publication Award for "Bats are acoustically attracted to mutualistic carnivorous plants" (2016)
  • 1st student poster award at the 4th International Berlin Bat Meeting (2015)
  • 2nd student poster award at the 4th International Berlin Bat Meeting (2015)
  • 1st student poster award at the 3rd International Berlin Bat Meeting (2013)


  • Nikolaj Mayer: "Do developing furled ginger leaves gain profits from foliage-roosting bats?" (BSc
  • Constanze Schild: "Social organisation of Natterer’s bats in the summer habitat" (MSc)
  • Tabea Feldmann: "Erarbeitung von Unterrichtskonzepten für Kindergärten zum Thema Fledermäuse im Rahmen des Citizen Science-Projektes "Mit F.U.N. in die Wildnis!" (Forschungspraktikum)
  • Julien Bota: "Interactions between ants (Camponotus spp.) and the rattan palm Korthalsia robusta on Borneo (BSc)
  • Kolja Köhler: "Interactions within and between colonies of Natterer's bats " (MSc)
  • Christian Ehrke (2017): "The sensory basis of roost choice in Hardwicke’s woolly bat (Kerivoula hardwickii)", University of Greifswald (MSc)
  • Rebecca Ermisch (2015): "Furled leaves as roosts for woolly bats", University of Greifwald (MSc)
  • Qayah Suhaini Nurul (2014): "Morphological and Behavioral Characteristics of Bats (Kerivoula hardwickii) Roosting in Pitcher Plants (Nepenthes hemsleyana)", University of Brunei Darussalam (BSc)
  • Nadirah Abd Manaf (2012): "Roost Selection of Bats in the Genus Kerivoula", University of Brunei Darussalam (BSc)
  • Liaw Lin Ji (2011): "Roosting Ecology of Woolly Bats (Vespertilionidae: Kerivoula) in Brunei Darussalam",  University of Brunei Darussalam (BSc)

(c) Merlin D. Tuttle