Why do many migratory bird species that breed in Europe sing extravagant songs on their wintering grounds in tropical Africa, thousands of miles away from where they attract their mates? Dr Marjorie Sorensen‘s PhD field research on great reed warblers (left) in Zambia points to an intriguing answer: they’re practicing! Read more in articles about the study in New Scientist, The Atlantic and Science News or in the original paper by Marjorie Sorensen, Susanne Jenni-Eiermann and Claire Spottiswoode, available in The American Naturalist.
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.