The BBC Radio 4 series “Natural Histories” is featuring honeyguides on 18 October (11h00 BST; repeat on 24 October at 21h00). On the programme, Claire Spottiswoode talks about our research on the Jekyll-and-Hyde lives of these intriguing birds – their brutal life as brood parasites of other birds (which we study in Zambia), and their cooperative life as collaborators of human honey-hunters (which we study in Mozambique), joined by Zambian nest-finder and legendary bird man Lazaro Hamuskili, Mozambican honey-hunter Orlando Yassene, and Dr Brian Wood of Yale University. The programme is presented by Brett Westwood and produced by Tim Dee. For more information, please see the programme webpage.
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.