Vidua mimicry and speciation featured in Evolution

Dec 2, 2020

Trends in Ecology and Evolution front cover, September 2020

We’re delighted that the amazing diversity of estrildid finch chick phenotypes, many of which are mimicked by their indigobird and whydah brood parasites, was featured on the front cover of the November issue of Evolution.

As well as featuring our paper Multimodal mimicry of hosts in a radiation of parasitic finches“, the issue also contains an insightful ‘Digest’ piece on our research by Renan Janke Bosque, Jente Ottenburghs, Cecília Rodrigues Vieira and Fabrícius Maia Chaves Bicalho Domingos. You can read it here: “The interplay between imprinting, mimicry, and multimodal signaling can lead to sympatric speciation“).

























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.

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New paper on host aggression and hawk mimicry

Our paper “Aggressive hosts are undeterred by a cuckoo’s hawk mimicry, but probably make good foster parents” has just been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. In the paper, we investigate the costs and benefits to the African cuckoo of specializing on a highly aggressive host species, the fork-tailed drongo.

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African Cuckoos Team at the Pan-African Ornithological Congress

The African Cuckoos Team had a fantastic time at the Pan-African Ornithological Congress (PAOC15), this year held in Vic Falls, Zimbabwe. Dr Chima Nwaogu gave a plenary talk on “Differing Priorities in the Timing of Annual Life History Events”, while Professor Claire Spottiswoode and Silky Hamama presented during a roundtable session on communities in conservation and research. Silky also presented a poster, with Claire, Jess Lund, Mairenn Attwood and Cameron Blair each giving research talks as well. 

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