Renata Mazzei Cespe Barbosa

renata study species 3.jpg

I am a marine biologist, with an MSc degree in Ecology from the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil). I'm mainly interested in the study of animal behaviour with emphasis on its mechanisms and evolutionary consequences. During my undergraduate and graduate work, I investigated the behavioural ecology of the Brazilian endemic cleaner goby Elacatinus figaro. For my PhD, I am interested in the behavioural plasticity of other Caribbean cleaning gobies. I intend to unveil the cognitive and neuroendocrine mechanisms related to behavioural variation and its evolutionary consequences for the studied species.

We selected as model species the Caribbean Broadstripe goby, Elacatinus prochilos, an abundant species distributed from the Lesser Antilles to the western Caribbean. In this species, variation in habitat use is correlated to changes in social behaviour, diet and frequency of cleaning interactions. Individuals living in corals or other substrates are usually found in pairs or small groups that depend mostly on cooperative cleaning interactions for feeding, while individuals living in basket sponges are organised in larger groups with dominance hierarchies that feed mostly on micro-organisms living inside the sponges’ tissue and only rarely engage in cleaning interactions. This system provides a very interesting opportunity to understand how intraspecific behavioural variation affects animal population dynamics and evolution. It will also help us to understand which evolutionary contexts could have given rise to cooperative behaviour in different marine groups.

I conduct my research in Barbados, where I combine underwater behavioural observations and field and laboratory experimental manipulations in order to answer interesting questions regarding this system. The project has an integrative approach that uses methods of neighbouring disciplines such as molecular genetics and animal neuro-endocrinology.

Since 2014 

Behavioural Ecology
Supervisors: Prof. Redouan Bshary and Dr Marta Soares
Université de Neuchâtel, Switzerland


Supervisors: Prof. Carlos Ferreira and Dr Marta Soares
Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


Bachelor in Marine Biology
Supervisor: Prof. Carlos Ferreira

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Cardoso, Sónia C.; Bshary, Redouan; Mazzei, Renata; Paitio, José R.; Oliveira, Rui F.; Soares, Marta C. (2015)
Arginine vasotocin modulates associative learning in a mutualistic cleaner fish.
Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, v. 69, p. 1173-1181

Mendes, Thiago C. ; Mazzei, R.C.B ; Correal, Gabriel O. ; Ferreira, Carlos Eduardo L. (2011)
A new possible case of mimicry between two Brazilian endemic reef fish.
Marine Biodiversity Records, v. 4, p. e29

renata boat.jpg

Renata Mazzei Cespe Barbosa








Room: D 128 


Université de Neuchâtel
Institut de Biologie
Rue Emile-Argand 11
CH-2000 Neuchâtel

Tel. +41 32 718 31 20
Fax +41 32 718 30 01


renata diving.jpg


renata tank.jpg