In Mozambique, we’ve been studying the other side of honeyguide’s lives: honeyguides are not only brutal brood parasites of other birds, but also the cooperative partners of human honey-hunters. In collaboration the Niassa Carnivore Project, we show that Yao honey-hunters in the Niassa National Reserve use special calls to signal to honeyguides that they’re eager to follow, and that honeyguides use this information to choose partners who are likely to be good collaborators. Read more in articles about the study published in The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The New York Times, National Geographic, Discovery Channel’s Seeker and Scientific American, listen to radio programmes on the BBC World Service, NPR, Voice of America or The Naked Scientists, watch a YouTube video about the research, or read the original paper by Claire Spottiswoode, Keith Begg and Colleen Begg, published in Science and available in full text from here.
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.