For the last three years we’ve been studying the evolution of nest camouflage in ground-nesting birds such as nightjars, plovers and coursers in the field in Zambia (and South Africa), in collaboration with Exeter University’s Sensory Ecology Group. Play a new computer game online and by exerting your own natural selection, help us study the evolution of camouflage in ever-evolving populations of virtual eggs! Please also join nearly a half a million others in admiring the superb camouflage of this fiery-necked nightjar in Zambia in a video released by our funders, the BBSRC.
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.