The lives of migratory birds breeding in Europe and wintering in Africa south of the Sahara are governed by environmental conditions experienced thousands of kilometres apart. In this paper, Marjorie Sorensen cleverly measured isotopes and hormones deposited in growing feathers to track the conditions experienced by Great Reed Warblers en route through Africa. She shows that the rainfall conditions these birds experienced in the Horn of Africa, a staging post between Europe and southern Africa, affect their condition on their main wintering grounds in Zambia… read more in the article by Marjorie Sorensen, Graham Fairhurst, Susanne Jenni-Eiermann, Jason Newton, Elizabeth Yohannes and Claire Spottiswoode, available Open Access in BMC Ecology.
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.