Metabolic Physiology

Prinzinger flyer

Depending on their habitat and individual (ontogenetic) development, each species has a different energy balance. Some birds, mammals or reptiles have to adapt to extreme environmental conditions, and these animals are characterised, for example, by their ability to hibernate, to go into winter dormancy, or to go into temporary hibernation or induced hypothermia (torpor). Professor Roland Prinzinger and his team study various parameters in order to identify the specific metabolic physiology of a particular species. These include the animal's age, organ morphology, and the physiology of body temperature, blood, heart and breathing rate as well as the metabolism of gases. Some of this data is obtained telemetrically, and in birds, for example, this is done by implanting small telemetric transmitters. Prinzinger takes a holistic approach to examining animals' overall energy balance; he studies factors such as the rate at which foodstuffs are metabolised and the rate of digestion, as well as the animal's evolutionary adaption to its environmental conditions (ecophysiology), and animal behaviour (ethology). In addition, the team has also undertaken comparative embryogenetic and ontogenetic studies on animals, in which they study the physiology of aging and heart physiology as well as blood morphology and serology. In the analysis of various bird eggs, for instance, Prinzinger found that despite different egg size and incubation periods (between 11 and 90 days) the energy required by a growing bird embryo is always the same; hence, by the time chicks hatch, an equal amount of energy has been transformed.

Over the past forty years Prinzinger has been investigating diverse topics in ornithology, including conducting a long-term study of the composition of bird species in specific habitats (Avifauna).

As Prinzinger puts it, "Besides acquiring and evaluating physiological data and learning how to implant transmitters in birds, our students benefit from the close cooperative ties we have established with the Frankfurt Zoo, the Veterinary Office and pharmaceutical companies". In 2003 the Goethe University and Frankfurter Sparkasse awarded Prinzinger the 1822-Stiftung der Frankfurter Sparkasse Universitätspreis for excellence in teaching.

Brief Biography

Prinzinger klein

Roland Prinzinger studied Chemistry and Biology in Tübingen. Following a dissertation on the comparative energetics of ravens, he spent six years working as a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of Animal Physiology. In 1982 Prinzinger received his Habilitation from the University of Tübingen with a dissertation on the metabolic energetics of homeotherms, and then taught mathematics and chemistry as a grammar school teacher. In 1984 he was appointed professor at the Goethe University Frankfurt and has assumed a number of different positions in the Faculty of Biological Sciences. For example, he was faculty dean from 1997 to 2000. Prinzinger is an elected member of the "Wissenschaftliche Gesellschaft an der Goethe-Universität". Among numerous other awards, he received the scientific research prize from the "Dachverband Deutscher Avifaunisten" in 1989 and the Ornithology Prize of the German Ornithological Society in 1994.


Prof. Dr. Roland Prinzinger
Institute of Ecology,
Evolution und Diversity
Max-von-Laue-Str. 13
(Biologicum, Flügel D)
60438 Frankfurt am Main
Telephone: +49 (0)69 798 42237