An enjoyable wet season has seen Gabriel Jamie collect genetic samples and egg phenotype data for our project examining the genetics of egg appearance. Tanmay Dixit and Jana Riederer conducted fieldwork in Zambia for the first time, studying egg rejection, Cuckoo finch colouration, and host rearing environments (the latter in collaboration with Nick Horrocks). Despite it being relatively dry, there was sufficient breeding to collect valuable data for all of these projects. We were visited by Maggie Mwale, Assistant Keeper of Ornithology at the Livingstone Museum, who spent several days with us, sharing in our research in Choma and collecting many nests for her display at the museum.
In a new paper published in Evolution, Dr Gabriel Jamie along with Silky Hamama, Collins Moya and Prof. Claire Spottiswoode from the African Cuckoos team and collaborators from University of Puerto Rico (Steven Van Belleghem), Princeton University (Dr Cassie Stoddard and Dr Ben Hogan) and University of Cambridge (Professor Rebecca Kilner) provide evidence of host-specific mimicry in the indigobirds and whydahs of Africa. Building on the pioneering work of Robert Payne and Jürgen Nicolai, they provide quantitative evidence that nestling Vidua finches mimic the patterns, colours and begging calls of their host’s nestling, and qualitative evidence of mimicry of host movements.