It’s the rainy reason in the miombo woodlands of south-central Africa, and we’re back in the field in Choma. Gabriel Jamie is kicking off his PhD research on the role of phenotypic plasticity in facilitating the amazing radiation of Vidua brood-parasitic finches and their hosts, and Wenfei Tong, Claire Spottiswoode and Jeroen Koorevaar are DNA sampling Cuckoo Finches and their prinia hosts as part of ongoing work on the genetic basis of host egg signatures and their parasitic forgeries. As ever, our warmest thanks to the Zambia Wildlife Authority for supporting our work again this year.
In a new paper published in Evolution, Dr Gabriel Jamie along with Silky Hamama, Collins Moya and Prof. Claire Spottiswoode from the African Cuckoos team and collaborators from University of Puerto Rico (Steven Van Belleghem), Princeton University (Dr Cassie Stoddard and Dr Ben Hogan) and University of Cambridge (Professor Rebecca Kilner) provide evidence of host-specific mimicry in the indigobirds and whydahs of Africa. Building on the pioneering work of Robert Payne and Jürgen Nicolai, they provide quantitative evidence that nestling Vidua finches mimic the patterns, colours and begging calls of their host’s nestling, and qualitative evidence of mimicry of host movements.