New paper on host aggression and hawk mimicry

Jan 4, 2023

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. This research was led by Mairenn Attwood, and carried out together with Jess Lund, Chima Nwaogu, Collins Moya and Claire Spottiswoode. We investigated the costs and benefits to the African cuckoo of specializing on a highly aggressive host species, the fork-tailed drongo.

We used field experiments to test the effectiveness of hawk mimicry by African cuckoos when attacking host nests, alongside survival analysis of the same host nests.We showed for the first time that aggression can exacerbate the trade-off a parasite faces in choosing which host species to parasitise. Drongo aggression undermined the effectiveness of hawk mimicry. However, drongo nest survival was high relative to other potential host species with similar nesting ecology, suggesting that successful parasites secure high-quality care for their offspring.


Tanmay Dixit awarded PhD and starting Junior Research Fellowship

Tanmay’s PhD, entitled “Signatures and forgeries: optimality in a coevolutionary arms race” was awarded with no corrections. Huge thanks to collaborators and colleagues who were instrumental to this work, and to examiners James Herbert-Read and Graeme Ruxton. Tanmay will remain on the team and continue conducting fieldwork in Choma as part of the Junior Research fellowship that he is starting at Jesus College, Cambridge.

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