New paper on embryonic movement in brood parasite chicks

Oct 27, 2021

Hatch from the egg

Stephanie McClelland’s paper entitled “Embryo movement is more frequent in avian brood parasites than birds with parental reproductive strategies” has been published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.  Stephanie measured embryonic movement of brood parasites and their hosts at sites all over the world. She found that compared to hosts and other non-parasitic birds, brood-parasitic birds show elevated muscle movement while still in the egg, which might help to strengthen their muscles so they can more effectively  kill or outcompete host chicks as soon as they hatch. At our study site in Zambia, Stephanie collaborated with several members of the African Cuckoos team, including Tanmay Dixit, Jess Lund, Silky Hamama, Luke McClean and Claire Spottiswoode. The data from this site focused on honeyguides, cuckoo finches, and Vidua finches, as well as their respective hosts. The study was covered by press articles in The Atlantic and The Daily Mail. Well done Steph and everyone else on the team!


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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