Studying Vibrational Communication - 1st International Symposium on Biotremology

5-7 July 2016

Fondazione Edmund Mach - San Michele all'Adige (Italy)

Conveners: Valerio Mazzoni (, Gianfranco Anfora (


Fondazione Edmund Mach

biotremology2016 | Invited speakers


Friedrich G. Barth, born in Munich,Germany, in 1940, studied biology and human physiology at theUniversity of Munich and at the University of California at Los Angeles. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Munich in 1967. In 1974 he succeeded Martin Lindauer on the chair for zoology at the University of Frankfurt am Main. In 1987 he then moved to Vienna University where he established the Department for Neurobiology and founded the Austrian Neuroscience Association for which he served as the first president. Since 2008 Friedrich Barth is professor emeritus at the University of Vienna. His research interests centre around invertebrate neurobiology. Always considering the entire animal and its natural behavior in its natural habitat his approach combines field work with laboratory work and the application of advanced technologies in search of functional principles. The main focus of his work have been the workings ofsensory systemsand their neuroethological rolesas well as related biomechanical and physical questions. Multidisciplinary collaborations with physical scientists and engineers characterize much of Friedrich Barth’s research. Together with JAC Humphrey he organized several international conferences to bring together biology and the physical sciences. The senses of spiders, remarkably sophisticated both in a biological and technical sense, and problems of communication in meliponine (“stingless”) bees took most of his attention. His own research and field work, lecturing, and many guest professorships took him to numerous countries all around the world. Friedrich Barth is a member of the Academia Europaea, the German National Academy of Sciences/Leopoldina, the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, and the Austrian Academy of Sciences. In 2001 he received the prestigious Karl Ritter von Frisch Medal of the German Zoological Society. Apart from having published some 200 full-length research papers he has been serving as the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Comparative Physiology A since 1996 and is the author and editor of several books.  Among these are “Insects and Flowers: The Biology of a Partnership” (1991), “A Spider’s World: Senses and Behavior” (2002), “Sensors and Sensing in Biology and Engineering” (FG Barth, JAC Humphrey, T Secomb eds.) (2003), “Frontiers in Sensing: from Biology to Engineering” (FG Barth, JAC,Humphrey, MV Srinivasan eds.) (2012) and “Sensory Perception: Mind and Matter” (FG Barth, P Giampieri-Deutsch, H-D Klein eds) (2012).

Barth_Abstract.pdf 513.72 kB

Dr. Peter Narins has been carrying out pioneering work for more than 45 years on the selective pressures sculpting and mechanisms underlying the evolution of sound and vibration communication in amphibians and mammals. He grounds his research in a unique combination of rigorous experimental field studies and quantitative physiological measurements. He provided the first example, in the Puerto Rican coqui treefrog, of sexual dimorphism in a vertebrate sensory system. He discovered the mechanism that prevents the sensitive inner ear of this frog from being overstimulated when the male produces its extremely high intensity calls. More recently, his comparative research approach led to the discoveries of ultrasonic communication in the concave-eared torrent frog (China), the first species of songbird demonstrated to produce ultrasound (China), the first amphibian capable of modulating his call to produce purely ultrasonic calls (Malaysia), and a novel system of seismic communication in a remarkable sand-dwelling mammal, the Namibian golden mole (Namibia). He has led or participated in more than 50 scientific overseas research expeditions to seven continents plus Madagascar, and is in great demand as a plenary lecturer on the evolution of communication systems both in English worldwide and in Spanish to universities throughout Latin America and Spain. He is an editor of the Journal of Comparative Physiology, and is the current President of the International Society of Neuroethology. He has received the Senior U.S. Scientist Award of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and a Fulbright Award (Montevideo, Uruguay). He was elected Fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation, Acoustical Society of America, Animal Behavioral Society, and AAAS. He is an Honorary Member of the Cuban Zoological Society and Professor Ad Honorem at the University of the Republic, Montevideo, Uruguay.


Dr. Karen Warkentin is a Professor of Biology at Boston University and a world leader in research on environmentally cued hatching. She discovered escape hatching as an embryo anti-predator defense and has studied the integrative biology of embryos and their adaptive, plastic responses to environmental variation for 25 years. Her early work on snake-induced hatching in red-eyed treefrogs led to a series of studies addressing their developmental and behavioral ecology, selective trade-offs across life-stages, evolutionary history, developmental physiology, and information use. This work focused attention on embryos as responsive, evolving organisms; from comparative work on other species, in her lab and others, we now know environmentally cued hatching is common and widespread among animals. Dr. Warkentin grounds her research in field observations, then uses a variety of field and laboratory methods to test hypotheses arising from those observations. She demonstrated that egg-clutch vibrations cue embryos to escape from snakes, then experimentally explored the surprisingly complex mechanisms through which embryos discriminate attack vibrations from benign disturbances such as rain. Her current research examines how development changes embryo abilities, information use, and decisions. Her bio-vibrations research is an interdisciplinary collaboration with mechanical engineer J. Gregory McDaniel. Their co-mentored student Michael Caldwell provided the first demonstration of a vertebrate – adult red-eyed treefrogs – communicating via plant-borne vibrations. Other students have documented reproductive mode plasticity (aquatic or terrestrial eggs) in hourglass treefrogs and studied hatching plasticity that helps embryos cope with variable parental care in glassfrogs. Dr. Warkentin is a Research Associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, where she leads an international team of researchers each rainy season, working in Spanish and English. She has served as an editor of Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology and on the Board of Governors of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists. She has given many invited research presentations, including conference plenaries, symposium presentations and seminars, and her work is frequently covered in the popular science media.

Meta Virant-Doberlet, Head of the Department for Organism and Ecosystem Research at the National Institute of Biology Ljubljana (Slovenia).
She received her PhD from University of Ljubljana. Having initially trained as an insect neurobiologist at Max-Planck Institute for Behavioural Physiology in Seewiesen, she is now focusing her research on all aspects of arthropod vibrational communication. She has been a Marie Curie fellow at the Cardiff University and is now the Head of the Department for Organism and Ecosystem Research at the National Institute of Biology in Ljubljana where she uses leafhoppers as a model for studying interactions shaping the evolution of the vibrational communication channel.