Sofia Forss, PostDoc

Identifying conditions that elicit novelty-seeking across mammal species

Department of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies, University of Zurich


Cognitive evolution remains one of the burning subjects in biological science and has been my passion during my academic career. Whilst I previously researched questions regarding novelty response, problem-solving and social learning in primates, I am currently expanding my research interests to other mammals. Through a project funded by “Forschungskredit” at the University of Zurich I am working with Prof. Manser and the Kalahari Meerkat Project on a comparative study addressing novelty seeking behavior in the mongoose family. During this project I will undertake a few comparative approaches: a) examining reactions to a broad range of novel stimuli in three wild mongoose species within similar habitats; yellow mongoose (Cynictis penicillata), slender mongoose (Galerella sanguinea) and meerkats (Suricata suricatta) and b) to systematically examine social and environmental influences on novelty seeking behavior between several groups of captive and wild meerkats. In addition, I am collaborating with the comparative cognition group at the UZH, in order to study similarities and differences in curiosity between common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) and meerkats, representing distinct taxonomic classes but nevertheless are characterized by similar highly social cooperative breeding social systems.

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