Matthias-Claudio Loretto, PhD

Corvid Lab

Funded by: FWF P-29705 (Fission-fusion dynamics and social cognition in wild ravens)


I am interested in the causes and consequences of animal movement. How does the social and physical environment shape this behaviour? What causes individual differences in movement strategies within and between populations? How does memory affect movement decisions?

I studied Behavioral Ecology (BSc) at the University of Graz, Austria, followed by a master’s degree in Wildlife Ecology and Wildlife Management at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Austria, with a one-year academic exchange at the University of Cádiz, Spain. In 2016 I finished my PhD, supervised by Prof. Thomas Bugnyar at the Department of Cognitive Biology, University of Vienna, where I focused on the movement ecology in wild non-breeding ravens. I discovered that in Central Europe non-breeding ravens use a network of rich anthropogenic food sources (e.g., garbage dumps, zoos). While some individuals develop preferences for specific sites over days up to years, others frequently move between such resources covering up to 165 km per day. I showed, that despite the highly dynamic character of this system, repeated interactions between individuals at the same and different sites are possible and likely. These results will help us to better understand how and why ravens evolved their high socio-cognitive skills.

Currently I investigate the causes for individual differences in fission-fusion dynamics of raven non-breeders and the effects of these dynamics on the birds’ social knowledge about relationships. While our main study site is at the Konrad Lorenz Research Station (KLF) in Grünau im Almtal, recent collaborations also allow comparisons with other populations of ravens e.g. in Italy and France.

In another project with colleagues at the KLF we study the space use, group dynamics and social relationships in a free-flying colony of Northern bald ibis, a critically endangered species. Some of the results will be highly relevant for the conservation and reintroduction of this species. Further I joined members of our frog lab to study homing and orientation behaviour of three neotropical poison frog species.

I used different tracking technologies (VHF, GPS-UHF, GPS-GSM, harmonic radar and PIT) and due to my enthusiasm for the emerging field of bio-logging (i.e., using animal borne electronic devices), I became a founding member of the International Bio-logging Society. Together with two colleagues we currently aim to develop ethical recommendations and guidelines for the use of bio-loggers.



Beck, K.B., Loretto, M.-C., Ringler, M., Hödl, W., Pašukonis, A. (2017) Relying on known or exploring for new? Movement patterns and reproductive resource use in a tadpole-transporting frog. PeerJ 5:e3745 DOI: 10.7717/peerj.3745

Loretto, M.-C., Schuster, R., Itty, C., Marchand, P., Genero, F. and Bugnyar, T. (2017): Fission-fusion dynamics over large distances in raven non-breeders. Scientific Reports, 7, 380, DOI:10.1038/s41598-017-00404-4.

Loretto, M.-C., R. Schuster and T. Bugnyar. (2016) GPS tracking of non-breeding ravens reveals importance of anthropogenic food sources during their dispersal in the Eastern Alps. Current Zoology, 62: 337-334.

Loretto, M.-C., R. Schuster, S. Reimann, D.M. Graulich and T. Bugnyar. (2016): Shared space - individually used: Spatial behaviour of non-breeding ravens (Corvus corax) close to a permanent anthropogenic food source. Journal of Ornithology 157: 439–450 (selected as highlight of the April issue)

Pašukonis, A., Loretto, M-C., Landler, L., Ringler, M., Hödl, W. (2014): Homing trajectories and initial orientation in a Neotropical territorial frog, Allobates femoralis (Dendrobatidae). Frontiers in Zoology, 11:29

Loretto, M.-C., Stöwe M. & Bugnyar, T. (2012): Does coping style affect preferences for feeding sites in ravens? Wiener Tierärztliche Monatsschrift 99, Supplement 1, 62-63, Conference Proceedings, published abstract.

Sztatecsny, M., Preininger, D., Freudmann, A., Loretto, M.-C., Maier, F., Hödl, W. (2012): Don’t feel blue: conspicuous nuptial colouration of male moor frogs (Rana arvalis) supports visual mate recognition in large breeding aggregations. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 66: 1587-1593

Loretto, M.-C., Fraser, O. N. & Bugnyar, T. (2012): Ontogeny of dominance relations and coalitions in common ravens (Corvus corax). International Journal of Comparative Psychology, 25 (3), 180-194,

Loretto, M.-C., Schloegl, C. & Bugnyar, T. (2010): Northern bald ibises follow others' gaze into distant space but not behind barriers. Biology Letters 6, 14-17.

Stöwe, M., Bugnyar, T., Loretto M-C., Schloegl, C. Range, F., & Kotrschal, K. (2006): Novel object exploration in ravens (Corvus corax): effects of social relationships. Behavioural Processes 73, 68-75.

Non-peer reviewed publications

Beck, K., Frigerio, D. & Loretto, M.-C. 2016: Der Kolkrabe – Schwarzfiedriges Genie oder doch nur ein Unglücksbote? ÖkoL. 38/1, 3-11.

Loretto, M-C. & Hödl, W. 2014: Telemetriestudie zum Orientierungsverhalten neotropischer territorialer Frösche, Amereega trivittata (Dendrobatidae). Terraria/elaphe. 6, S. 97-98



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