Dr Nicholas Horrocks has been awarded a three-year Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship to continue working on our study systems in Zambia. Nick’s fellowship project is entitled “Phenotypic plasticity in reproductive investment in a rapidly changing world” and will focus on whether ground-nesting birds at our study site (plovers, coursers and nightjars) can adapt to increased nest disturbance and hotter temperatures due to climate change. He will also investigate whether cuckoo finch mothers pre-adapt their chicks to thrive in the specific host nests that different cuckoo finch races parasitise. Congratulations Nick, and thank you to The Leverhulme Trust for their fantastic support once again.
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.