Thomas Breithaupt

Thomas Breithaupt

Senior Lecturer

Faculty of Science and Engineering

01482 465924

Dr Thomas Breithaupt has been studying the sensory ecology of aquatic and terrestrial animals for more than 25 years.

His research is driven by his fascination in the sensory world and behaviour of animals, and how animals extract and respond to information from their specific habitat.

Dr Breithaupt is most interested in how animals communicate by chemicals, and how they respond to chemical and mechanical (sound and vibration) stimuli from predators, prey and conspecifics.

As natural environments are threatened by chemical pollution, noise and vibrations, he believes we need to understand how animal senses and behaviours cope with these challenges.


Research Interests

  • Sensory ecology

  • Animal behaviour

  • Chemical communication, foraging and predator avoidance behaviour

  • Chemo- and mechanoreception

  • Visualisation of chemical and mechanical signals and cues

  • Response of invertebrates to anthropogenic noise and vibrations

  • Animal personality

Research groups

Collaborated with chemical ecologists, chemists, physicists, geographers, behavioural ecologists and marine biologists in the interdisciplinary Sensory Ecology Group, some of which is funded by Clearwater, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Currently collaborating with The Deep in Hull, Yorkshire Water, University of Nottingham, University of Plymouth, University of Florence (Italy), Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (Germany) and the University of South Bohemia in Ceske Budejovice (Czech Republic).


Sbragaglia V., Leiva D., Arias A., García J.A., Aguzzi J., Breithaupt T. (2017) 'Fighting over burrows: the emergence of dominance hierarchies in the Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus)', Journal of Experimental Biology, 220, pp 4624-4633

Roberts L., Cheesman S., Elliott M., Breithaupt T. (2016) 'Sensitivity of Pagurus bernhardus (L.) to substrate-borne vibration and anthropogenic noise', Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology, 474, pp 185-194

Roberts L., Cheesman S., Breithaupt T., Elliott M. (2015) 'Sensitivity of the mussel Mytilus edulis to substrate-borne vibration in relation to anthropogenically-generated noise', Marine Ecology Progress Series, 538, pp 185-195

Breithaupt, T. and Thiel, M. (2011) Chemical Communication in Crustaceans, 565pp, Springer Press, USA.

Berry, F., and Breithaupt, T. (2010) 'To signal or not to signal? Chemical communication by urine-borne signals mirrors sexual conflict in crayfish', BMC Biology, 8: 25

Full list


Programmes taught on (2019)

Modules list

  • Diversity of Life (coordinator) Yr1

  • Skills for Biology Yr1

  • Animal Form and Function Yr2

  • Sensory Physiology of Animals Yr3

  • Independent Research Project Yr3

  • 20-credit Research Project Yr3

  • Research Project Yr3

  • Field Studies (one-semester)(coordinator) Yr 3

  • Field Studies (two-semesters) (coordinator) Yr 3

  • Field Course Leader: Ecology of the Atlantic Rainforest (Brazil) Yr3

  • Ecotoxicology MSc Course

Research PhDs

Dr Breithaupt welcomes MSc and PhD projects in areas that deal with sensory ecology, animal behaviour, ecophysiology, or animal personalities.

Completed PhDs 

Dr Breithaupt has been first supervisor for 20 postgraduate studies including six PhD research projects

Current PhD supervisions 

Tom Evans, Identification of feeding attractant for American lobsters Homarus americanus

Professional highlights

Academic qualifications

  • Diploma in Biology (BSc Biology with MSc), University of Konstanz, Germany

  • Dr.rer.nat. in Biology (PhD; summa cum laude), University of Konstanz, Germany

External roles

  • Associate Editor of the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, Springer (2011- )

  • External Examiner, University of Plymouth, MSc Marine Biology (2012-2016)

  • External examiner or committee member of one national and three international PhD defences (2005-2013)

Awards and accolades

  • Editor of multi-author book: Breithaupt, T. and Thiel, M. (2011) Chemical Communication in Crustaceans, Springer

  • Organiser of a symposium on 'Chemical Communication in Crustaceans' (2007), meeting of the Crustacean Society in Coquimbo, Chile

  • Member of NERC peer review college (2002-2005)

  • NERC Research Fellow (2001-2004)

Professional highlights

Publications on catfish wake following behaviour, lobster chemical communication and visualisation of crayfish chemical signals have been highlighted in various international online and printed science news portals and blogs.