Frog
Mouse image courtesy of shutterstock.

Researchers including Dr Sasha Dall have discovered that individuals with the highest metabolic rates within populations should be the least pre-occupied with keeping track of changes in their environments that could lead them to sources of food.

Image credit John Harding/BTO.

John Harding/BTO

Dr Jon Blount and a team of researchers have discovered that feeding wild blue tits in winter resulted in less successful breeding during the following spring meaning that feeding wild birds in winter may not be a benefit.

Zebra finches

Dr Nick Royle and a team of researchers have conducted a study into Zebra Finches and discovered that personality is not inherited from birth parents with external factors likely to play a bigger part.

Dr Clarissa House has been part of a team which has shown that plants, like animals, also have a battle of the sexes when it comes to raising their offspring.

Dr Andy Russell has co-authored a paper published in Ecology Letters that reveals the menopause evolved, in part, to prevent competition between a mother and her new daughter-in-law.

Behaviour

Research highlights

2013

  • We show that badgers infected with bovine TB are less socially connected within their social groups but are more connected to badgers from other social groups than non-infected badgers; Covered by the BBC, The London Evening Standard and The Daily Express. PAPER: Weber, N., Carter, S. P., Dall, S. R. X., Delahay, R. J., McDonald, J. L., Bearhop, S., & McDonald, R. A. (2013). Badger social networks correlate with tuberculosis infection. Current Biology, 23(20), R915-R916.
  • We show that variation in metabolic rates among individuals within populations can explain dramatic differences in information use when it comes to food; Covered by Medical News Today and Europe Nouvelles. PAPER: Mathot, K. J., & Dall, S. R. X. (2013). Metabolic Rates Can Drive Individual Differences in Information and Insurance Use under the Risk of Starvation. The American Naturalist, 182(5), 611-620.
  • We show that, in zebra finches, "personality" differences are mainly inherited non-genetically; Covered by The Daily Mail and The Australian. PAPER: Schuett, W., Dall, S. R. X., Wilson, A. J., & Royle, N. J. (2013). Environmental transmission of a personality trait: foster parent exploration behaviour predicts offspring exploration behaviour in zebra finches. Biology Letters, 9(4), 20130120.
  • We show that male zebra finch song rate may give strange females a false impression of the male's condition but his partner cannot be fooled in this way; Covered by The Conversation, France 24, TV5 Monde and in a Science Update Radio (AAS) podcast. PAPER: David, M., Auclair, Y., Dall, S. R. X., & Cézilly, F. (2013). Pairing context determines condition-dependence of song rate in a monogamous passerine bird. Proceedings of The Royal Society: Biological sciences, 280(1753), 20122177.
  • Repeated targeting of the same hosts by a brood parasite compromises host egg rejection.  Nature Communications. 4: 2475.

2012

  • Discovery that the longevity of individuals can be reliably predicted by the length of particular sections of DNA called telomeres from early in life. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 109, 1743-1748. Covered by Science, Nature, BBC news, NERC Planet Earth.
  • Redder ladybirds shown to be more toxic. Functional Ecology 26, 334-342. Covered by NERC Planet Earth, Audubon magazine.
  • Green turtles nesting on a hot (black sand) beach at Ascension Island in the mid-Atlantic found to have evolved heat-tolerant eggs. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 279, 1077-1084. Covered by NERC Planet Earth.

2011

  • We show for the first time that the non-sexual "personalities" of both males and females can influence mate choice in non-humans (zebra finches); (Ethology 117: 908–917) Covered by The Telegraph, Metro and Australian Geographic.
  • Evidence that the birth synchrony observed in banded mongoose societies (where all females give birth on the same day) arises as a result of intense competition between females (Biology Letters 7: 54-56). Featured in a range of international media including Nature, Science News and NERC Planet Earth.
  • In zebra finch families, personality matters. Couples with similar habits make better parents, regardless of genetic make-up. (Anim Behav 81: 609–18). Covered by BBC Wildlife.
  • Demonstrated that blindly copying what your parents did – no matter how stupid it may seem – could be the best strategy for the long-term success of your genes (Ecol Lett 14: 237–243). Covered widely in the media.
  • DDT resistance alleles found to function as a sexually antagonistic allele with opposing fitness effects in males and females. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 24: 1351-1362.
  • Wolbachia infection lowers fertile sperm transfer in a moth, bit does not affect non-fertile sperm numbers. Biology Letters 7: 187-189.

2010

  • 'Flashy' sexual colouration found to reveal the quality of male's sperm in wild great tits. Ecol. Lett. 13, 213-222. Covered by BBC, New Scientist, Nature, National Geographic.
  • Banded mongoose pups acquire foraging traditions and continue to use them into adulthood (Curr Biol 20:1171-1175). Also covered in Science, New Scientist, LA Times and New York Times.
  • Males show more pronounced personalities than females in a wide range of species (Biol Rev 85, 217-246). Featured widely in the media including the Telegraph, Times, and a range of international media.
  • Discovery of morphological divergence between breeders and helpers in Damaraland mole-rat societies; a phenomenon once thought to be restricted to insect societies. (Evolution 64 3190–3197).
  • Females mating with more than one male can prevent extinction in the face of ultra-selfish genes that distort the population sex ratio (Curr Biol 20: 471–475). Covered by over 30 newspapers, BBC Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live. Also covered in the NERC podcast.
  • Sex ratio drive promotes sexual conflict and sexual coevolution in the fly Drosophila pseudoobscura. Evolution 65: 1504-1509.

2009

  • Demonstration of evolutionary feedback between social information use and animal personality variation.(Proc. R.  Soc. Lond. B 276: 605–613). Covered by NERC Planet Earth and various international media.
  • First theoretical demonstration that warning displays may function to provide 'honest', detailed information about the strength of signaller's defences. (Proc Roy Soc B 276, 871-877)

2008

  • Important new insights into the evolutionary causes of menopause in humans (Proc Natl Acad Sci 105:5332-5335). Also covered in Scientific American, the Times, Telegraph and Guardian.
  • Demonstration that females rapidly evolve increased remating rates in the presence of a sex ratio distorting ultra-selfish gene (Science 322, 1241–1243).