Dr Nikolaus von Engelhardt

Dr Nikolaus von Engelhardt

Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer) in Animal Behaviour and Physiology

School of Biological Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)



Professional experience

5/10/2015-current:   Associate Professor, School of Biological and Marine Sciences, Plymouth University, UK

1/2/2009-30/09/2015: Assistant Professor, Department of Animal Behaviour, Bielefeld University,Germany

1/2/2007-31/1/2009: Marie Curie Research Fellow, Behavioural Ecology, Cambridge University, UK

15/9/2006-15/12/2006: Visiting Fellow, School of Botany and Zoology, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia

15/6/2006-15/9/2006: Lecturer, Behavioural Biology, University of Groningen, The Netherlands

31/5/2004–31/1/2009: Associated researcher, Behavioural Biology, University of Groningen, The Netherlands



2000-2004: PhD student, University of Groningen, The Netherlands.

1995-1999: Diplom (MSc) in Biology, University of Bayreuth, Germany

1996-1997: Special Exchange Student (Santander Program), Psychology, University of California, Berkeley, USA

1993-1995: Vordiplom (BSc) in Biology, University of Hamburg, Germany

1992: Study of medicine, University of Göttingen, Germany

Teaching interests

My main teaching interests are animal behavior and behavioural physiology (in particular endocrinology), as well as some molecular genetics. 

I look at behavioural and physiological mechanisms from an evolutionary and developmental perspective. I favour experimental approaches and have ample experience with setting up behavioural experiments and hormonal and genetic techniques. Ideally this is linked to the study of animals in the wild.

At Plymouth University I currently teach on a range of modules in this area both for bachelor and master degrees.

Members of Plymouth University can find the courses I teach on here: https://dle.plymouth.ac.uk/user/profile.php?id=84537

Research interests

I am especially interested in the mechanisms and the function underlying social interactions and the development of individual differences within populations.

My research focusses on the shaping of individual development by early environmental effects, in particular social and transgenerational influences. One major goalis to understand more about the behavioural, physiological and genetic mechanisms of transgenerational effects. I also study how social influences later in life shape adult behavior. Finally, I work on the links between ecology, behaviour and physiology. So far I have mostly been involved in fundamental research, but my questions and methods are clearly relevant also for applied aspects in wildlife conservation and animal welfare, particularly in relation to climate change, endocrine disruption and other anthropogenic influences. I am also experienced with the development of molecular methods to assess genetic diversity, paternity and sex as well as endocrine methods that can be used for non-invasive studies and field research (using hair, feathers, saliva or feces) and are useful to assess stress and reproductive performance in field research and captivity.

We run a weekly research discussion seminar on topics in behaviour and evolution every Friday at 4pm in PSQ A429. If you are interested in contributing and participating, please contact me

I am member of the Ecology, Behaviour and Evolution Research Group

Find my publications here:




If you are interested in participating in my current research, please contact me, there may be various possibilities for projects using behavioural, endocrinological and genetic techniques depending upon interest and experience

Key publications are highlighted

Bölting S & von Engelhardt N 2017 'Effects of the social environment during adolescence on the development of social behaviour, hormones and morphology in male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata)' Frontiers in Zoology 14, (1) , DOI PEARL
Langen EMA, von Engelhardt NB & Goerlich-Jansson VCG 2017 'Social environment during egg laying: Changes in plasma hormones with no consequences for yolk hormones or fecundity in female Japanese quail, Coturnix japonica' PlosOne , DOI PEARL
Meise K, von Engelhardt N, Forcada J & Hoffman JI 2016 'Offspring Hormones Reflect the Maternal Prenatal Social Environment: Potential for Foetal Programming?' PLOS ONE 11, (1) e0145352-e0145352 , DOI PEARL
Ruploh T, Henning M, Bischof H-J & von Engelhardt N 2015 'Effects of social conditions during adolescence on courtship and aggressive behavior are not abolished by adult social experience' Developmental Psychobiology 57, (1) 73-82 , DOI
von Engelhardt N, Kowalski GJ & Guenther A 2015 'The maternal social environment shapes offspring growth, physiology, and behavioural phenotype in guinea pigs' Frontiers in zoology 12 Suppl 1, S13-S13 PEARL
Guenther A, Kowalski G & von Engelhardt N 2014 'Prenatal social conditions shape offspring adult phenotype and reproductive success' Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68, (10) 1661-1667 , DOI
Ruploh T, Bischof H-J & von Engelhardt N 2014 'Social experience during adolescence influences how male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata) group with conspecifics' Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 68, (4) 537-549 , DOI
Ruploh T, Bischof H-J & von Engelhardt N 2013 'Adolescent social environment shapes sexual and aggressive behaviour of adult male zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata)' Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 67, (2) 175-184 , DOI
Clément RJG, Krause S, von Engelhardt N, Faria JJ, Krause J & Kurvers RHJM 2013 'Collective Cognition in Humans: Groups Outperform Their Best Members in a Sentence Reconstruction Task' PLoS ONE 8, (10) e77943-e77943 , DOI PEARL
Siegeler K, Wistuba J, Damm OS, von Engelhardt N, Sachser N & Kaiser S 2013 'Early social instability affects plasma testosterone during adolescence but does not alter reproductive capacity or measures of stress later in life' Physiology & Behavior 120, 143-149 , DOI
Krause ET, von Engelhardt N, Steinfartz S, Trosien R & Caspers BA 2013 'Ultrasonography as a minimally invasive method to assess pregnancy in the fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra)' SALAMANDRA 49, (4) 211-214 Author Site
2012 'Erratum' Journal of Neuroendocrinology 24, (5) 850-850 , DOI
Boncoraglio G, Groothuis TGG & von Engelhardt N 2011 'Differential Maternal Testosterone Allocation among Siblings Benefits Both Mother and Offspring in the Zebra Finch Taeniopygia guttata' The American Naturalist 178, (1) 64-74 , DOI
Kemme K, Wewers D, Sachser N, Von Engelhardt N, Kaiser S & Groothuis T 2009 'An unstable social environment affects sex ratio in guinea pigs: an adaptive maternal effect?' Behaviour 146, (11) 1513-1529 , DOI
Kingma SA, Komdeur J, Vedder O, von Engelhardt N, Korsten P & Groothuis TGG 2009 'Manipulation of male attractiveness induces rapid changes in avian maternal yolk androgen deposition' Behavioral Ecology 20, (1) 172-179 , DOI
Hammers M, von Engelhardt N, Langmore NE, Komdeur J, Griffith SC & Magrath MJL 2009 'Mate-guarding intensity increases with breeding synchrony in the colonial fairy martin, Petrochelidon ariel' Animal Behaviour 78, (3) 661-669 , DOI
von Engelhardt N, Henriksen R & Groothuis TGG 2009 'Steroids in chicken egg yolk: Metabolism and uptake during early embryonic development' General and Comparative Endocrinology 163, (1-2) 175-183 , DOI
Rubolini D, Martinelli R, von Engelhardt N, Romano M, Groothuis TGG, Fasola M & Saino N 2007 'Consequences of prenatal androgen exposure for the reproductive performance of female pheasants (Phasianus colchicus)' Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 274, (1606) 137-142 , DOI
Vedder O, Kingma S-A, von Engelhardt N, Korsten P, Groothuis TGG & Komdeur J 2007 'Conspecific brood parasitism and egg quality in blue tits Cyanistes caeruleus' Journal of Avian Biology 38, (5) 625-629 , DOI
Vedder O, Kingma S-A, von Engelhardt N, Korsten P, Groothuis TGG & Komdeur J 2007 'Conspecific brood parasitism and egg quality in blue tits Cyanistes caeruleus' JOURNAL OF AVIAN BIOLOGY 38, (5) 625-629 Author Site , DOI
Müller W, Lessells CKM, Korsten P & Engelhardt NV 2007 'Manipulative Signals in Family Conflict? On the Function of Maternal Yolk Hormones in Birds' The American Naturalist 169, (4) E84-E96 , DOI
von Engelhardt N, Carere C, Dijkstra C & G. G. Groothuis T 2006 'Sex-specific effects of yolk testosterone on survival, begging and growth of zebra finches' Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 273, (1582) 65-70 , DOI
GROOTHUIS TONGG & Von ENGELHARDT NIKOLAUS 2005 'Investigating Maternal Hormones in Avian Eggs: Measurement, Manipulation, and Interpretation' Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1046, (1) 168-180 , DOI
Groothuis TGG, Müller W, von Engelhardt N, Carere C & Eising C 2005 'Maternal hormones as a tool to adjust offspring phenotype in avian species' Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 29, (2) 329-352 , DOI
Von ENGELHARDT NKOLAUS & GROOTHUIS TONGG 2005 'Measuring Steroid Hormones in Avian Eggs' Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1046, (1) 181-192 , DOI
von Engelhardt N, Dijkstra C, Daan S & Groothuis TGG 2004 'Effects of 17-β-estradiol treatment of female zebra finches on offspring sex ratio and survival' Hormones and Behavior 45, (5) 306-313 , DOI
von Engelhard N, Kappeler PM & Heistermann M 2000 'Androgen levels and female social dominance in Lemur catta' Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 267, (1452) 1533-1539 , DOI
Bailey, Von Englehardt, Leng, Smith & Dickson 2000 'Growth Hormone Secretagogue Activation of the Arcuate Nucleus and Brainstem Occurs Via a Non-Noradrenergic Pathway' Journal of Neuroendocrinology 12, (3) 191-197 , DOI
von Engelhardt N & Groothuis TGG 2011 'Maternal Hormones in Avian Eggs' Hormones and Reproduction of Vertebrates - Volume 4 91-127 , DOI
Conference Papers
Groothuis TGG & Von Engelhardt N 2005 'Investigating maternal hormones in avian eggs: Measurement, manipulation, and interpretation' 168-180 , DOI