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.
New paper on imperfect egg mimicry
Our paper “Combined measures of mimetic fidelity explain imperfect mimicry in a brood parasite-host system” has just been published in the journal Biology Letters. This study was led by Tanmay Dixit, and carried out together with Gary Choi, Salem al-Mosleh, Jess Lund, Jolyon Troscianko, Collins Moya, L Mahadevan, and Claire Spottiswoode, as part of a collaboration between our group and Prof. Mahadevan and his lab at Harvard University. Together we combined mathematical tools and field experiments in Zambia to quantify a key difference – “squiggle” markings – between the eggs of hosts (tawny-flanked prinias) and parasites (cuckoo finches). We showed that suboptimal behaviour on the part of prinias allows cuckoo finches to get by with an imperfect copy of prinia eggs.