Disciplines/fields: Behavioral Biology / Social Evolution

Duration: 3 sessions

Course Content

  • Social animals & the evolutionary problems of cooperation and altruism
  • Theories of social evolution: kin selection-, inclusive fitness theory, multi-level selection
  • Applied aspects: evolutionary medicine


Conceptual: To understand the principles of social evolution (i.e. that all interactions are characterized by cooperation and conflict), and that these principles apply from genes to species interactions.


Maynard Smith J, Szathmáry E (1995) The major transitions in evolution. WH Freeman, Oxford
Korb J (2010) Social insects, major evolutionary transitions and multilevel selection. In: Animal Behaviour: Evolution and Mechanisms (ed. P Kappeler), Springer Press, Heidelberg, pp.179-211.


Judith Korb is a professor for evolutionary biology and ecology at the University of Freiburg. She is interested in social evolution, aiming at understanding when cooperation wins over conflict. Her main study species are termites. She combines ultimate and proximate studies and addresses social evolution from the ecological to the gene level. Judith studied at and received her PhD from the University of Würzburg, Germany; then moved as a Postdoc to CSIRO Entomology, Australia, and returned to Germany with an Emmy Noether Fellowship for Young Researchers from the German Science Foundation. In 2008 she became full professor at the University of Osnabrück, Germany, and in 2013 she moved as full professor to the University of Freiburg, Germany.