Special Issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society on brood parasitism

Feb 25, 2019

Special Issue Cover

The coevolutionary biology of brood parasitism: from mechanism to pattern’ is a theme issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, co-edited by Claire together with Steve Portugal, Ros Gloag and Rose Thorogood – read on for 16 papers on some of the most fascinating animals you’ll meet! These include papers from our team on higher-level pattern signatures as defences in host eggs; reduced eggshell conductance as an adaptation to brood parasitism; and what egg signatures and immune systems have in common.

The formal summary of the special issue:

“Obligate brood parasitic cheats have fascinated natural historians since ancient times. Passing on the costs of parental care to others occurs widely in birds, insects, and fish, and often exerts selection pressure on hosts which in turn evolve defences. Brood parasites have therefore provided an illuminating system for researching coevolution. Nevertheless, we lack a comprehensive understanding of how ecology and evolutionary history constrain or facilitate these adaptations, via the mechanisms that shape or respond to selection. In this theme issue we bring together examples from across the animal kingdom to illustrate the diverse ways in which recent research is addressing this gap. First it presents examples of recent developments in methodology that are providing greater insight into the mechanisms used by brood parasitic birds and insects to fool hosts, and the exciting possibilities afforded by new study systems. The issue then explores the diversity and predictability of coevolution between brood parasites and hosts to shed light on how brood parasites evolve. Finally, it takes a more expansive view of brood parasitism research to ask how this topic can be informed by, and contribute to, our understanding of social evolution in general.”

News

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During this year’s British Science Week, we’ve been engaging with local school children in Cambridgeshire. Mairenn Attwood led interactive talks at the Thomas Clarkson Academy in Wisbech,  a school partnered with ‘Teach First’ (a charity aimed at reducing educational inequality).

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New scientific paper on the “Limits to host colonization and speciation” published

Our paper “Limits to host colonization and speciation in a radiation of parasitic finches” has just been published in the journal Behavioral Ecology. In this study, led by Dr Gabriel Jamie, we explored the factors which limited the colonisation of new hosts by brood-parasitic Vidua finches. Speciation in these birds is closely connected with the colonisation of new hosts. Therefore, if we can understand what limits this process, we can understand what has limited the diversification of this radiation.

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Parasitic finches featured in new documentary “Attenborough’s Life in Colour” on BBC One

The amazing mimicry shown by nestling Pin-tailed Whydahs of their Common Waxbill hosts is showcased in David Attenborough’s Life in Colour the latest natural history documentary on BBC One. Filming of this sequence by Nick Green and Max Hug Williams of Humble Bee Films took place at our field site in Choma, Zambia, with Dr Gabriel Jamie acting as scientific consultant and contributing sound recordings.

You can watch the sequence in Episode 2: “Hiding in Colour” on BBC iPlayer.

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