A successful season of fieldwork has seen the collection of more genetic samples from Tawny-flanked prinias by Gabriel Jamie, as well as egg rejection experiments conducted by Tanmay Dixit. Jess Lund continued experiments on the colouration of Cuckoo finch chicks, started in 2018 by Jana Riederer. As always, field research was supported on a daily basis by Collins Moya and Silky Hamama, here with Gabriel in our study area at Semhawa Farm.
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.