Jonas Verspeek


  • Ethology
  • Cognition
  • Cooperation


I work as a postdoctoral researcher at the Antwerp ZOO Centre for Research and Conservation (CRC) of Antwerp ZOO and Planckendael ZOO. Additionally, I coordinate and supervise ongoing and future research projects that focus on great apes in Planckendael ZOO and supervise various student projects.


  • Visiting lecturer University of Antwerp (courses: How to Observe, Primatology)
  • Visiting lecturer University of Antwerp (course: Biological Anthropology)
  • Associate postdoc researcher University of Antwerp
  • Co-coordinator of the animal welfare monitoring app Akongo in Planckendael ZOO


I am fascinated by how social animals navigate their complex worlds and what factors shape decision making in these contexts. My current research project involves a comparative framework to study cooperative decision making across great apes, lemurs, canids and birds. Using a mix of behavioral observations, cognitive paradigms, and physiological measures, I aim to unravel shared drivers of successful cooperation across species. In addition, I am involved in other studies exploring a range of topics including emotions, social tolerance, maternal behavior, fear responses,  and problem solving skills across different animal species.


During my Master studies in Biology at the University of Antwerp (major: Evolution and Behaviour), I was involved in various research projects including determination of lifting forces during stag beetle fights, investigating shell preferences in hermit crabs, measuring stress-related temperature changes in European canaries and color matching in Dalmatian wall lizards. For my master’s thesis, I explored the influence of personality similarity on relationship quality between zoo-housed bonobos. After finishing my master’s in Biology, I worked as a research assistant within the Antwerp ZOO Centre for Research and Conservation (CRC), where I coordinated the daily training procedures of the Planckendael ZOO bonobos, facilitated several research projects of visiting researchers and started my own research project on food preference and nutritional content of zoo-housed bonobos.

After one year, I started my PhD on the proximate mechanisms of cooperation in bonobos. Using multiple naturalistic group-paradigms, I described the lack of prosociality and the presence of inequity aversion in the Planckendael ZOO bonobo population. In addition, I provided a biological validation for the use of salivary and urinary cortisol to measure arousal in bonobos.

After finishing my PhD, I continued working within the CRC as a research assistant, which allowed me to gain experience with additional research methods like eye-tracking- and touchscreen paradigms. In my current position I am broadening my research scope by also investigating cooperative decision making and problem solving in many other species.


Verspeek, J., & Stevens, J. M. G. (2022). Behavioral and physiological response to inequity in bonobos ( Pan paniscus ). American Journal of Primatology, e23455, 1–14.

Verspeek, J. (2022). Indifferent hippies: prosociality and inequity aversion as proximate mechanisms of cooperation in bonobos.

Verspeek, J., van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Laméris, D. W., & Stevens, J. M. G. (2022). Self-interest precludes prosocial juice provisioning in a free choice group experiment in bonobos. Primates, 63(6), 603–610.

Verspeek, J., van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Laméris, D. W., Staes, N., & Stevens, J. M. G. (2022). Adult bonobos show no prosociality in both prosocial choice task and group service paradigm. PeerJ, 10, e12849.

Laméris, D. W., Verspeek, J., Salas, M., Staes, N., Torfs, J. R. R., Eens, M., & Stevens, J. M. G. (2022). Evaluating Self-Directed Behaviours and Their Association with Emotional Arousal across Two Cognitive Tasks in Bonobos (Pan paniscus). Animals, 12(21), 3002.

Laméris, D. W., Verspeek, J., Eens, M., & Stevens, J. M. G. (2022). Social and nonsocial stimuli alter the performance of bonobos during a pictorial emotional Stroop task. American Journal of Primatology, 84(2).

Verspeek, J., Behringer, V., Laméris, D. W., Murtagh, R., Salas, M., Staes, N., Deschner, T., & Stevens, J. M. G. (2021). Time-lag of urinary and salivary cortisol response after a psychological stressor in bonobos (Pan paniscus). Scientific Reports, 11(1).

Verspeek, J., & Stevens, J. M. G. (2020). Food preference and nutrient composition in captive bonobos (Pan paniscus). Primates, 61(5).

van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Staes, N., Verspeek, J., Hoppitt, W. J. E., & Stevens, J. M. G. (2020). Social culture in bonobos. Current Biology, 30(6), R261–R262.

Verspeek, J., Staes, N., van Leeuwen, E. J. C., Eens, M., & Stevens, J. M. G. (2019). Bonobo personality predicts friendship. Scientific Reports, 9(1), 1–9.