Research interests

  • Animal-plant interactions
  • Seed dispersal
  • Primate sensory ecology
  • Olfaction
  • Plant VOCs

Scientific projects

Primates are one of the most important frugivores in the tropics and are a major vector of seed dispersal. Vision has been traditionally seen as their main sensory modality, and their sense of smell has long been considered to be reduced to almost negligible levels. However, it is now known that many primate species possess high olfactory capacities which can provide information in many contexts – among them fruit selection.

Fleshy fruits are widely assumed to have evolved to be attractive to seed dispersers. Many works examined whether fruit traits such as size, shape or color have evolved as a response to selection pressures exerted by their main seed-dispersal vectors. However, little focus has been given to the potential roles of fruit odor in attracting frugivorous seed dispersers. So, the hypothesis that in some taxa fruit odor has evolved as a signal for dispersal vectors has been rarely addressed.

My work focuses on the interaction between these two loose ends: primate olfaction and the evolution of fruit odor. I investigate the chemical communication between primates and plants on both proximate and ultimate levels. On the proximate level, I try to understand which aspects of fruit odor are used by primates, and what information they draw from the VOC profiles of fruits. On the ultimate level, I use comparative methods to elucidate whether fruit odor can be considered an evolved signal whose function is to promote consumption and consequently seed dispersal by primates.


Nevo, O., & Valenta, K. (2018). The ecology and evolution of fruit odor: Implications for primate seed dispersal. International Journal of Primatology. doi:10.1007/s10764-018-0021-2

Nevo O, Valenta K, Tevlin AG, Omeja P, Styler SA, Jackson DJ, Chapman CA, Ayasse M (2017). Fruit defence syndromes: the independent evolution of mechanical and chemical defences. Evol Ecol. doi: 10.1007/s10682-017-9919-y


Pascual J, von Hoermann C, Rottler-Hoermann A-M, Nevo O, Geppert A, Sikorski J, Huber KJ, Steiger S, Ayasse M, Ovemann J (2017). Function of bacterial community dynamics in the formation of cadaveric semiochemicals during in situ carcass decomposition. Environ Microbiol. doi: 10.1111/1462-2920.13828


Nevo O (2017). Olfactory communication. In Fuentes A (ed.), International Encyclopedia of Primatology. Wiley Blackwell. doi: 10.1002/9781119179313.wbprim0368


Valenta K, Nevo O, Martel C, Chapman CA (2017) Plant attractants: Integrating insights from seed dispersal and pollination ecology. Evol Ecol. doi:10.1007/s10682-016-9870-3. 


Nevo O, Heymann EW, Schulz S, Ayasse M (2016). Fruit odor as a ripeness signal for seed-dispersing primates? A case study on four Neotropical species. J Chem Ecol. DOI: 10.1007/s10886-016-0687-x 


Nevo O, Orts Garri R, Hernandez Salazar LT, Schulz S, Heymann EW, Ayasse M, Laska M (2015) Chemical recognition of fruit ripeness in spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi). Sci Rep 5: 14895  


Nevo O, Heymann EW (2015) Led by the nose: olfaction in primate feeding ecology. Evol Anthropol 24: 134-178 


Rathke EM, Nevo O (2015) Short-term learning of olfactory discrimination tasks in cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). Neotrop Primates 22:12-18 


  • Dr. Omer Nevo
  • Institute of Evolutionary Ecology and Conservation Genomics
  • University of Ulm
  • Albert-Einstein-Allee 11
  • D-89081 Ulm, Germany
  • Tel. +49 (0)731 50 22665
  • Fax +49 (0)731 50 22683
  • Office: M25 4112