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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Professor Andy Russell

Professor Andy Russell

Professor of Animal Behaviour

 +44(0)1326 255936

 Daphne du Maurier 3.073


Daphne du Maurier Building, University of Exeter,  Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK


I am a behavioural ecologist with a primary interest in the role of mothers (and others) in the generation of adaptive phenotypes in variable environments, and a member of the Behaviour group in the Centre for Ecology and Conservation at the University of Exeter’s Cornwall Campus.   

I currently have two long-term model systems:

(1) Chestnut-crowned babbler from outback Australia (2004-present): In cooperatively breeding systems, parent(s) are aided in their reproductive attempts by helpers. The number of helpers varies within a habitat and between years, but when mothers have more helpers they can expect to produce more offspring. Using the cooperative chestnut-crowned babbler, I am investigating the interplay between climatic enviroments, social enviroments (i.e. numbers of helpers) and parental investment strategies with a view to shedding new light on: (a) parental effects; (b) social evolution; and (c) adaptive responses to climate change.

(2) Parid tits of the Pyrenees (2010-present). One of the many changes the world is currently facing is climatic. Measuring and understanding population consequences of climate change is important for projections of biodiversity. Mothers might be in a unique position to ‘inform’ their unborn offspring of current climate and, through doing so, hasten the emergence of adaptive phenotypes. I am testing this idea using nest-box populations of blue and great tits along a 1500m altitudinal (climatic) gradient of the French Pyrenees.

Please contact me should you wish to join my research in these, or related, topics. For further details, please see Research.


2000: PhD, University of Sheffield, UK
1993: BSc (Hons), Zoology, University of Glasgow, UK


2017-pres: Professor in Animal Behaviour
Associate Professor in Animal Behaviour
2012-2014: Senior Lecturer in Animal Behaviour, University of Exeter, UK
2011-2012: Royal Society Senior University Research Fellow, University of Exeter, UK
2010-2011: Lecturer, Department of Human Evolutionary Biology, Harvard University, USA
2003-2010: Royal Society URF, Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK
2002-2003: PDRA, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK
1999-2002: PDRA, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, UK

Research group links

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Research interests

My broad interests involve behaviour, adaptation and evolution. I manage or co-manage two long-term model systems: (1) the Chestnut-Crowned Babbler Project in outback Australia (initiated 2004); and (2) the Pyrenean Tit Project in the French Pyrenees (initiated 2010 with Alexis Chain, CNRS Moulis). Any question that yields new insight into how these two systems tick interests me! 

Research projects


1. Chestnut-Crowned Babbler Project

I established a study population of these Austtalian babblers in 2004 at the University of New South Wales Arid Zone Research Station at Fowlers Gap in far western New South Wales.  Chestnut-crowned babblers are a tractable species for studying a large range of questions pertaining to aspects of climate, sociality, and life-history at this site.  They are highly vocal, live in the open habitat at Fowlers Gap and are relatively easy to locate and catch.  The nests are dome-shaped and extremely obvious (being up to 50cm long x 30cm wide) and the trees at Fowlers Gap are short and strong and so almost all nests can be accessed easily.  I have colour-banded ca. 90% of individuals from up to 90 breeding units and monitored breeding success in each.  The accessibility of nests allows all aspects of breeding success to be monitored, including clutch and egg sizes, chick growth rates and fledging success.  The fact that nests have an entrance hole allows pit-tag and video camera technology to be used successfully to determine incubation and provisioning behaviour of individuals as well as group membership. Breeding typically occurs between July and November in groups of up to 15 individuals (mean = 6-7). For further information see Publications.

Example Projects

(i) Life-history evolution and the evolution of cooperative breeding

(ii) Parental contributions and effects in variable socio-climatic environments

(iii) Coordination and stabilisation of contributions to care

(iv) Adapting to extreme environments and climate change

(v) Vocal communication and the evolution of language (with Simon Townsend, Zurich)

(2) Pyrenean Tit Project

I co-established this project in 2010 with Dr Alexis Chaine at CNRS Moulis. Mountain ranges offer an unusual opportunity to investigate the relationships among maternal investment, selection and climate in ecological time-scales. This is because the effects of differing means and variances in climate can be investigated within the same broad ecology and hours in the day. In Europe, the French Pyrenees are particularly apt because it is possible to achieve substantial differences in altitude over very short geographical distances. We have recently established 600 nest-boxes for blue and great tits along a 1000m (~3,300 ft) gradient of the French Pyrenees at four main locations (Moulis 450-650m; Cescau 600-900m; Galey 850-1250m; Castera 1100-1550m), with an inter-site distance of 4-16km.

Example Projects

(i) Climatic and habitat effects on breeding success

(ii) Breeding phenology, underlying cues and success

(iii) Parental investmant and coordination of care

(iv) Phenotypic plasticity and parental effects

Main Sources of Funding

2013-2016: NERC Standard Grant
2011-2012: Midi Pyrenees Regional Grant, France
2009-2012: Australian Research Council Discovery Grant
2006-2009: Australian Research Council Discovery Grant
2004-2006: NERC New Investigator’s Grant, UK 
2003-2012: The Royal Society, UK

Research grants

  • 2017 The British Academy
    Testing the basics of language in animals
  • 2013 Natural Environment Research Council
    Parental effects and the generation of helpers in cooperative babblers
  • 2006 Natural Environment Research Council
    Senescence in animals with extreme lifespan
  • 2005 Natural Environment Research Council
    Quantifying the benefits of helping to increase group size in an avian cooperative breeder

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Journal articles

Liebl AL, Browning LE, Russell A (In Press). Carer removal and brood size manipulation: not equivalent to quantify carer impacts on provisioning. Behavioral Ecology
Lynton-Jenkins J, Brundl A, Cauchoix M, Lejeune L, Salle L, Thiney A, Russell A, Chaine A, Bonneaud C (In Press). Contrasting the seasonal and elevational prevalence of generalist avian haemosporidia in co-occurring host species. Ecology and Evolution
Liebl AL, Nomano FY, Browning LE, Russell AF (In Press). Experimental evidence for fully additive care among male carers in the cooperatively breeding chestnut-crowned babbler. Animal Behaviour
Watson SK, Mine JG, O'Neill LG, Mueller JL, Russell AF, Townsend SW (2023). Cognitive constraints on vocal combinatoriality in a social bird. iScience, 26(7). Abstract.  Author URL.
Cones AG, Liebl AL, Russell AF (2023). Helpers are associated with increased nest attentiveness and more constant egg temperatures in chestnut-crowned babblers. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 77(7). Abstract.
Lynton‐Jenkins JG, Chaine AS, Russell AF, Bonneaud C (2023). Parasite detection and quantification in avian blood is dependent on storage medium and duration. Ecology and Evolution, 13(2). Abstract.
Spiess S, Mylne HK, Engesser S, Mine JG, O'Neill LG, Russell AF, Townsend SW (2022). Syntax-like Structures in Maternal Contact Calls of Chestnut-Crowned Babblers (<i>Pomatostomus ruficeps</i>). INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF PRIMATOLOGY  Author URL.
Lynton-Jenkins JG, Russell AF, Chaves J, Bonneaud C (2021). Avian disease surveillance on the island of San Cristobal, Galapagos. ECOLOGY AND EVOLUTION, 11(24), 18422-18433.  Author URL.
Nomano FY, Savage JL, Rollins LA, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2021). Communal roosting shows dynamics predicted by direct and indirect nepotism in chestnut-crowned babblers. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 75(2). Abstract.
Culina A, Adriaensen F, Bailey LD, Burgess MD, Charmantier A, Cole EF, Eeva T, Matthysen E, Nater CR, Sheldon BC, et al (2021). Connecting the data landscape of long-term ecological studies: the SPI-Birds data hub. Journal of Animal Ecology, 90(9), 2147-2160. Abstract.
Liebl AL, Wesner JS, Russell AF, Schrey AW (2021). Methylation patterns at fledging predict delayed dispersal in a cooperatively breeding bird. PLoS One, 16(6). Abstract.  Author URL.
Cones AG, Liebl AL, Houslay TM, Russell AF (2021). Temperature-mediated plasticity in incubation schedules is unlikely to evolve to buffer embryos from climatic challenges in a seasonal songbird. J Evol Biol, 34(3), 465-476. Abstract.  Author URL.
Bründl AC, Sallé L, Lejeune LA, Sorato E, Thiney AC, Chaine AS, Russell AF (2020). Elevational Gradients as a Model for Understanding Associations Among Temperature, Breeding Phenology and Success. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 8 Abstract.
Nomano FY, Savage JL, Browning LE, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2019). Breeding Phenology and Meteorological Conditions Affect Carer Provisioning Rates and Group-Level Coordination in Cooperative Chestnut-Crowned Babblers. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 7 Abstract.
Engesser S, Holub JL, O'Neill LG, Russell AF, Townsend SW (2019). Chestnut-crowned babbler calls are composed of meaningless shared building blocks. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116(39), 19579-19584. Abstract.
Lejeune L, Savage JL, Bründl AC, Thiney A, Russell AF, Chaine AS (2019). Environmental effects on parental care visitation patterns in blue tits Cyanistes caeruleus. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 7(SEP). Abstract.
Bründl AC, Sorato E, Sallé L, Thiney AC, Kaulbarsch S, Chaine AS, Russell AF (2019). Experimentally induced increases in fecundity lead to greater nestling care in blue tits. Proc Biol Sci, 286(1905). Abstract.  Author URL.
Austin VI, Higgott C, Viguier A, Grundy L, Russell AF, Griffith SC (2019). Song rate and duetting in the Chirruping Wedgebill (Psophodes cristatus): frequency, form and functions. Emu, 119(2), 138-146. Abstract.
L'Herpiniere KL, O'Neill LG, Russell AF, Duursma DE, Griffith SC (2019). Unscrambling variation in avian eggshell colour and patterning in a continent-wide study. R Soc Open Sci, 6(1). Abstract.  Author URL.
Capp E, Liebl AL, Cones AG, Russell AF (2018). Advancing breeding phenology does not affect incubation schedules in chestnut-crowned babblers: Opposing effects of temperature and wind. Ecology and Evolution, 8(1), 696-705. Abstract.
Jacob S, Sallé L, Zinger L, Chaine AS, Ducamp C, Boutault L, Russell AF, Heeb P (2018). Chemical regulation of body feather microbiota in a wild bird. Mol Ecol, 27(7), 1727-1738. Abstract.  Author URL.
Russell AF, Townsend SW (2017). Communication: Animal Steps on the Road to Syntax?. Curr Biol, 27(15), R753-R755. Abstract.  Author URL.
Savage JL, Browning LE, Manica A, Russell AF, Johnstone RA (2017). Turn-taking in cooperative offspring care: by-product of individual provisioning behavior or active response rule?. Behav Ecol Sociobiol, 71(11). Abstract.  Author URL.
Crane JMS, Savage JL, Russell AF (2016). Diversity and function of vocalisations in the cooperatively breeding Chestnut-crowned Babbler. Emu - Austral Ornithology, 116(3), 241-253.
Langmore NE, Bailey LD, Heinsohn RG, Russell AF, Kilner RM (2016). Egg size investment in superb fairy-wrens: helper effects are modulated by climate. Proc Biol Sci, 283(1843). Abstract.  Author URL.
Chappell MA, Buttemer WA, Russell AF (2016). Energetics of communal roosting in chestnut-crowned babblers: implications for group dynamics and breeding phenology. J Exp Biol, 219(Pt 21), 3321-3328. Abstract.  Author URL.
Sorato E, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2016). The price of associating with breeders in the cooperatively breeding chestnut-crowned babbler: foraging constraints, survival and sociality. J Anim Ecol, 85(5), 1340-1351. Abstract.  Author URL.
Crane JMS, Pick JL, Tribe AJ, Vincze E, Hatchwell BJ, Russell AF (2015). Chestnut-crowned babblers show affinity for calls of removed group members: a dual playback without expectancy violation. Animal Behaviour, 104, 51-57. Abstract.
Engesser S, Crane JMS, Savage JL, Russell AF, Townsend SW (2015). Experimental Evidence for Phonemic Contrasts in a Nonhuman Vocal System. PLoS Biol, 13(6). Abstract.  Author URL.
Savage JL, Russell AF, Johnstone RA (2015). Maternal allocation in cooperative breeders: Should mothers match or compensate for expected helper contributions?. Animal Behaviour, 102, 189-197. Abstract.
Sorato E, Gullett PR, Creasey MJS, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2015). Plastic territoriality in group-living chestnut-crowned babblers: Roles of resource value, holding potential and predation risk. Animal Behaviour, 101, 155-168. Abstract.
Warrington MH, Rollins LA, Russell AF, Griffith SC (2015). Sequential polyandry through divorce and re-pairing in a cooperatively breeding bird reduces helper-offspring relatedness. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 69(8), 1311-1321. Abstract.
Nomano FY, Browning LE, Savage JL, Rollins LA, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2015). Unrelated helpers neither signal contributions nor suffer retribution in chestnut-crowed babblers. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY, 26(4), 986-995.  Author URL.
Kramer KL, Russell AF (2015). Was monogamy a key step on the hominin road? Reevaluating the monogamy hypothesis in the evolution of cooperative breeding. Evolutionary Anthropology, 24(2), 73-83. Abstract.
McAuliffe K, Wrangham R, Glowacki L, Russell AF (2015). When cooperation begets cooperation: the role of key individuals in galvanizing support. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 370(1683). Abstract.  Author URL.
Møller AP, Adriaensen F, Artemyev A, Bańbura J, Barba E, Biard C, Blondel J, Bouslama Z, Bouvier JC, Camprodon J, et al (2014). Clutch-size variation in Western Palaearctic secondary hole-nesting passerine birds in relation to nest box design. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 5(4), 353-362. Abstract.
Kramer KL, Russell AF (2014). Kin-selected cooperation without lifetime monogamy: human insights and animal implications. Trends Ecol Evol, 29(11), 600-606. Abstract.  Author URL.
Georgiev AV, Russell AF, Emery Thompson M, Otali E, Muller MN, Wrangham RW (2014). The Foraging Costs of Mating Effort in Male Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). International Journal of Primatology, 35(3-4), 725-745. Abstract.
Royle NJ, Russell AF, Wilson AJ (2014). The evolution of flexible parenting. Science, 345(6198), 776-781. Abstract.  Author URL.
Nomano FY, Browning LE, Nakagawa S, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2014). Validation of an automated data collection method for quantifying social networks in collective behaviours. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68(8), 1379-1391. Abstract.
Cheatsazan H, de Almedia APLG, Russell AF, Bonneaud C (2013). Experimental evidence for a cost of resistance to the fungal pathogen, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, for the palmate newt, Lissotriton helveticus. BMC Ecol, 13 Abstract.  Author URL.
Nomano FY, Browning LE, Rollins LA, Nakagawa S, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2013). Feeding nestlings does not function as a signal of social prestige in cooperatively breeding chestnut-crowned babblers. Animal Behaviour
Warrington MH, Rollins LA, Raihani NJ, Russell AF, Griffith SC (2013). Genetic monogamy despite variable ecological conditions and social environment in the cooperatively breeding apostlebird. Ecology and Evolution, 3(14), 4669-4682. Abstract.
Savage JL, Russell AF, Johnstone RA (2013). Intra-group relatedness affects parental and helper investment rules in offspring care. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 67(11), 1855-1865. Abstract.
Savage JL, Russell AF, Johnstone RA (2013). Maternal costs in offspring production affect investment rules in joint rearing. Behavioral Ecology, 24(3), 750-758. Abstract.
Young CM, Browning LE, Savage JL, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2013). No evidence for deception over allocation to brood care in a cooperative bird. Behavioral Ecology, 24(1), 70-81. Abstract.
Gillespie DOS, Russell AF, Lummaa V (2013). The Effect of Maternal Age and Reproductive History on Offspring Survival and Lifetime Reproduction in Preindustrial Humans. Evolution, 67(7), 1964-1974. Abstract.
Rollins LA, Browning LE, Holleley CE, Savage JL, Russell AF, Griffith SC (2012). Building genetic networks using relatedness information: a novel approach for the estimation of dispersal and characterization of group structure in social animals. Mol Ecol, 21(7), 1727-1740. Abstract.  Author URL.
Browning LE, Young CM, Savage JL, Russell DJF, Barclay H, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2012). Carer provisioning rules in an obligate cooperative breeder: Prey type, size and delivery rate. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 66(12), 1639-1649. Abstract.
Sorato E, Gullett PR, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2012). Effects of predation risk on foraging behaviour and group size: adaptations in a social cooperative species. Animal Behaviour, 84(4), 823-834.
Hill GE, Bonneaud C, Balenger SL, Russell AF (2012). Experimental evidence for distinct costs of pathogenesis and immunity against a natural pathogen in a wild bird. Mol Ecol, 21(19), 4787-4796. Abstract.
Browning LE, Patrick SC, Rollins LA, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2012). Kin selection, not group augmentation, predicts helping in an obligate cooperatively breeding bird. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London: Biological Sciences, 279(1743), 3861-3869. Abstract.
Barrette M-F, Monfort SL, Festa-Bianchet M, Clutton-Brock TH, Russell AF (2012). Reproductive rate, not dominance status, affects fecal glucocorticoid levels in breeding female meerkats. Hormones and Behavior, 61(4), 463-471.
Lahdenperä M, Gillespie DOS, Lummaa V, Russell AF (2012). Severe intergenerational reproductive conflict and the evolution of menopause. Ecology Letters, 15(11), 1283-1293.
Cockburn A, Russell AF (2011). Cooperative breeding: a question of climate?. Current Biology, 21(5), R195-R197. Abstract.
Njabo KY, Cornel AJ, Bonneaud C, Toffelmier E, Sehgal RNM, Valkiūnas G, Russell AF, Smith TB (2011). Nonspecific patterns of vector, host and avian malaria parasite associations in a central African rainforest. Mol Ecol, 20(5), 1049-1061. Abstract.  Author URL.
Bonneaud C, Balenger SL, Russell AF, Zhang J, Hill GE, Edwards SV (2011). Rapid evolution of disease resistance is accompanied by functional changes in gene expression in a wild bird. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 108(19), 7866-7871. Abstract.  Author URL.
Lahdenperä M, Lummaa V, Russell AF (2011). Selection on male longevity in a monogamous human population: late-life survival brings no additional grandchildren. J Evol Biol, 24(5), 1053-1063. Abstract.  Author URL.
Lahdenperä M, Russell AF, Tremblay M, Lummaa V (2011). Selection on menopause in two premodern human populations: no evidence for the Mother Hypothesis. Evolution, 65(2), 476-489. Abstract.  Author URL.
Russell AF, Portelli DJ, Russell DJF, Barclay H (2010). Breeding ecology of the Chestnut-crowned Babbler: a cooperative breeder in the desert. Emu, 110(4), 324-331. Abstract.
Rickard IJ, Holopainen J, Helama S, Helle S, Russell AF, Lummaa V (2010). Food availability at birth limited reproductive success in historical humans. Ecology, 91(12), 3515-3525. Abstract.  Author URL.
Rollins LA, Holleley CE, Wright J, Russell AF, Griffith SC (2010). Isolation and characterization of 12 polymorphic tetranucleotide microsatellite loci in the apostlebird (Struthidea cinerea). Conservation Genetics Resources, 2(SUPPL.1), 229-231. Abstract.
Gillespie DOS, Lahdenperä M, Russell AF, Lummaa V (2010). Pair-bonding modifies the age-specific intensities of natural selection on human female fecundity. Am Nat, 176(2), 159-169. Abstract.  Author URL.
Russell AF, Wright J (2009). Avian mobbing: byproduct mutualism not reciprocal altruism. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 24(1), 3-5.
Rickard IJ, Lummaa V, Russell AF (2009). Elder brothers affect the life history of younger siblings in preindustrial humans: social consequence or biological cost?. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30(1), 49-57. Abstract.
Langmore NE, Cockburn A, Russell AF, Kilner RM (2009). Flexible cuckoo chick-rejection rules in the superb fairy-wren. Behavioral Ecology, 20(5), 978-984. Abstract.
Griesser M, Barnaby J, Schneider NA, Figenschau N, Kazem A, Wright J, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2009). Influence of winter ranging behaviour on the social organization of a cooperatively breeding bird species, the apostlebird. Ethology, 115(9), 888-896. Abstract.
Holleley CE, Russell AF, Griffith SC (2009). Isolation and characterization of polymorphic tetranucleotide microsatellite loci in the chestnut-crowned babbler (<i>Pomatostomus ruficeps</i>). MOLECULAR ECOLOGY RESOURCES, 9(3), 993-995.  Author URL.
Holleley CE, Russell AF, Griffith SC (2009). Isolation and characterization of tetranucleotide loci in the chestnut-crowned babbler Pomatostomus ruficeps. Molecular Ecology Resources, 9, 993-995.
Russell AF, Lummaa V (2009). Maternal effects in cooperative breeders: from hymenopterans to humans. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci, 364(1520), 1143-1167. Abstract.  Author URL.
Hodge SJ, Bell MBV, Mwanguhya F, Kyabulima S, Waldick RC, Russell AF (2009). Maternal weight, offspring competitive ability, and the evolution of communal breeding. Behavioral Ecology, 20(4), 729-735. Abstract.
Faurie C, Russell AF, Lummaa V (2009). Middleborns disadvantaged? Testing birth-order effects on fitness in pre-industrial Finns. PLoS One, 4(5). Abstract.  Author URL.
Berg EC, Eadie JM, Langen TA, Russell AF (2009). Reverse sex-biased philopatry in a cooperative bird: Genetic consequences and a social cause. Molecular Ecology, 18(16), 3486-3499. Abstract.
Portelli DJ, Barclay H, Russell DJF, Griffith SC, Russell AF (2009). Social organisation and foraging ecology of the cooperatively breeding Chestnut-crowned Babbler (pomatostomus ruficeps). Emu, 109(2), 153-162. Abstract.
Wright J, Russell AF (2008). How helpers help: Disentangling ecological confounds from the benefits of cooperative breeding. Journal of Animal Ecology, 77(3), 427-429. Abstract.
Russell AF, Langmore NE, Gardner JL, Kilner RM (2008). Maternal investment tactics in superb fairy-wrens. Proc Biol Sci, 275(1630), 29-36. Abstract.  Author URL.
Gillespie DOS, Russell AF, Lummaa V (2008). When fecundity does not equal fitness: evidence of an offspring quantity versus quality trade-off in pre-industrial humans. Proc Biol Sci, 275(1635), 713-722. Abstract.  Author URL.
Russell AF, Young AJ, Spong G, Jordan NR, Clutton-Brock TH (2007). Helpers increase the reproductive potential of offspring in cooperative meerkats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274
Bergmüller R, Johnstone RA, Russell AF, Bshary R (2007). Integrating cooperative breeding into theoretical concepts of cooperation. Behavioural Processes, 76(2), 61-72. Abstract.
Lummaa V, Pettay JE, Russell AF (2007). Male twins reduce fitness of female co-twins in humans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 104(26), 10915-10920. Abstract.  Author URL.
Bergmüller R, Russell AF, Johnstone RA, Bshary R (2007). On the further integration of cooperative breeding and cooperation theory. Behavioural Processes, 76(2), 170-181. Abstract.
Rickard IJ, Russell AF, Lummaa V (2007). Producing sons reduces lifetime reproductive success of subsequent offspring in pre-industrial Finns. Proc Biol Sci, 274(1628), 2981-2988. Abstract.  Author URL.
Russell AF, Langmore NE, Cockburn A, Astheimer LB, Kilner RM (2007). Reduced egg investment can conceal helper effects in cooperatively breeding birds. Science, 317(5840), 941-944. Abstract.  Author URL.
Lahdenperä M, Russell AF, Lummaa V (2007). Selection for long lifespan in men: Benefits of grandfathering?. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 274(1624), 2437-2444. Abstract.
Gilchrist JS, Russell AF (2007). Who cares? Individual contributions to pup care by breeders vs non-breeders in the cooperatively breeding banded mongoose (Mungos mungo). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 61(7), 1053-1060. Abstract.
Carlson AA, Manser, M.B. Young, A.J. Russell, A.F. Jordan N, McNeilly AS, Clutton-Brock TH (2006). Cortisol levels are positively associated with pup-feeding rates in male meerkats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 273
Carlson AA, Russell, A.F. Young, A.J. Jordan, N. McNeilly AS, Clutton-Brock TH (2006). Elevated prolactin levels immediately precede decisions to babysit by male meerkat helpers. Hormones and Behaviour, 50
Clutton-Brock TH, Hodge SJ, Spong G, Russell AF, Jordan NR, Bennett NC, Sharpe LL, Manser MB (2006). Intrasexual competition and sexual selection in cooperative mammals. Nature, 444(7122), 1065-1068. Abstract.  Author URL.
Young AJ, Carlson AA, Russell AF, Bennett NC, Monfort SL, Clutton-Brock TH (2006). Stress and the suppression of subordinate reproduction in cooperatively breeding meerkats. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 103(32), 12005-12010.
Clutton-Brock TH, Russell AF, Sharpe LL, Jordan NR (2005). 'False feeding' and aggression in meerkat societies. Animal Behaviour, 69(6), 1273-1284. Abstract.
Stephens PA, Russell AF, Young AJ, Sutherland WJ, Clutton-Brock TH (2005). Dispersal, eviction, and conflict in meerkats (Suricata suricatta): an evolutionarily stable strategy model. American Naturalist, 165(1), 120-135. Abstract.
Russell AF, Carlson AA, McIlrath GM, Jordan NR, Clutton-Brock T (2004). ADAPTIVE SIZE MODIFICATION BY DOMINANT FEMALE MEERKATS. Evolution, 58(7), 1600-1600.
Russell AF, Carlson AA, McIlrath GM, Jordan NR, Clutton-Brock T (2004). Adaptive size modification by dominant female meerkats. Evolution, 58(7), 1600-1607. Abstract.  Author URL.
Clutton-Brock TH, Russell AF, Sharpe LL (2004). Behavioural tactics of breeders in cooperative meerkats. Animal Behaviour, 68(5), 1029-1040. Abstract.
Lahdenperä M, Lummaa V, Tremblay M, Helle S, Russell AF (2004). Fitness benefits of prolonged post-reproductive lifespan in women. Nature, 428(6979), 178-181. Abstract.
Hatchwell BJ, Russell AF, MacColl ADC, Ross DJ, Fowlie MK, McGowan A (2004). Helpers increase long-term but not short-term productivity in cooperatively breeding long-tailed tits. Behavioral Ecology, 15, 1-10.
Carlson AA, Young, A.J. Russell, A.F. Bennett, N.C. McNeilly AS, Clutton-Brock TH (2004). Hormonal correlates of dominance in cooperative meerkats (Suricata suricatta). Hormones and Behaviour, 46
Carlson AA, Young AJ, Russell AF, Bennett NC, McNeilly AS, Clutton-Brock T (2004). Hormonal correlates of dominance in meerkats (Suricata suricatta). Horm Behav, 46(2), 141-150. Abstract.  Author URL.
Lahdenperä M, Lummaa V, Russell AF (2004). Menopause: Why does fertility end before life?. Climacteric, 7(4), 327-331. Abstract.
Russell AF, Brotherton PNM, McIlrath GM, Sharpe LL, Clutton-Brock TH (2003). Breeding success in cooperative meerkats: Effects of helper number and maternal state. Behavioral Ecology, 14(4), 486-492. Abstract.
Griffith SC, Örnborg J, Russell AF, Andersson S, Sheldon BC (2003). Correlations between ultraviolet coloration, overwinter survival and offspring sex ratio in the blue tit. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 16(5), 1045-1054. Abstract.
Russell AF, Sharpe LL, Brotherton PNM, Clutton-Brock TH (2003). Cost minimization by helpers in cooperative vertebrates. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 100(6), 3333-3338. Abstract.  Author URL.
Clutton-Brock TH, Russell AF, Sharpe LL (2003). Meerkat helpers do not specialize in particular activities. Animal Behaviour, 66(3), 531-540. Abstract.
Clutton-Brock TH, Russell, A.F. Sharpe, L.L. Young, A.J. Balmforth Z, McIlrath GM (2002). Evolution and development of sex differences in cooperative behaviour in meerkats. Science, 297(5579).
Russell AF, Clutton-Brock TH, Brotherton PNM, Sharpe LL, Mcilrath GM, Dalerum FD, Cameron EZ, Barnard JA (2002). Factors affecting pup growth and survival in co-operatively breeding meerkats Suricata suricatta. Journal of Animal Ecology, 71(4), 700-709. Abstract.
Scantlebury M, Russell AF, McIlrath GM, Speakman JR, Clutton-Brock TH (2002). The energetics of lactation in cooperatively breeding meerkats <i>Suricata suricatta</i>. PROCEEDINGS OF THE ROYAL SOCIETY B-BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES, 269(1505), 2147-2153.  Author URL.
Clutton-Brock TH, Brotherton PN, Russell AF, O'Riain MJ, Gaynor D, Kansky R, Griffin A, Manser M, Sharpe L, McIlrath GM, et al (2001). Cooperation, control, and concession in meerkat groups. Science, 291(5503), 478-481. Abstract.  Author URL.
Cunningham EJA, Russell AF (2001). Differential allocation and 'good genes' - Comment from Cunningham & Russell. TRENDS IN ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION, 16(1), 21-21.  Author URL.
Russell AF (2001). Dispersal costs set the scene for helping in an atypical avian cooperative breeder. Proc Biol Sci, 268(1462), 95-99. Abstract.  Author URL.
Clutton-Brock TH, Russell AF, Sharpe LL, Brotherton PN, McIlrath GM, White S, Cameron EZ (2001). Effects of helpers on juvenile development and survival in meerkats. Science, 293(5539), 2446-2449. Abstract.  Author URL.
Russell AF, Hatchwell BJ (2001). Experimental evidence for kin-biased helping in a cooperatively breeding vertebrate. Proc Biol Sci, 268(1481), 2169-2174. Abstract.  Author URL.
Petrie M, Schwabl H, Brande-Lavridsen N, Burke T (2001). Maternal investment - Sex differences in avian yolk hormone levels. NATURE, 412(6846), 498-498.  Author URL.
Cunningham EJA, Russell AF (2001). Maternal investment - Sex differences in avian yolk hormone levels - Reply. NATURE, 412(6846), 498-499.  Author URL.
Hatchwell BJ, Russell AF, Ross DJ, Fowlie MK (2000). Divorce in cooperatively breeding long-tailed tits: a consequence of inbreeding avoidance?. Proc Biol Sci, 267(1445), 813-819. Abstract.  Author URL.
Cunningham EJ, Russell AF (2000). Egg investment is influenced by male attractiveness in the mallard. Nature, 404(6773), 74-77. Abstract.  Author URL.
Hatchwell BJ, Fowlie MK, Ross DJ, Russell AF (1999). Incubation behavior of Long-tailed Tits: Why do males provision incubating females. Condor, 101(3), 681-686. Abstract.
Hatchwell BJ, Russell AF, Fowlie MK, Ross DJ (1999). Reproductive success and nest-site selection in a cooperative breeder: Effect of experience and a direct benefit of helping. Auk, 116(2), 355-363. Abstract.
Hatchwell BJ, Russell AF (1996). Provisioning rules in cooperatively breeding long-tailed tits Aegithalos caudatus: an experimental study. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 263(1366), 83-88. Abstract.
Russell AF, Wanless S, Harris MP (1995). Factors affecting the production of pellets by Shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis. Seabird, 17, 44-49.
Wanless S, Harris MP, Russell AF (1993). Factors influencing food load sizes brought in by Shags Phalacrocorax aristotelis during chick rearing. Ibis, 135, 19-24.
Harris MP, Towll H, Russell AF, Wanless S (1990). Maximum dive depths attained by auks feeding young on the Isle of May, Scotland. Scottish Birds, 16, 25-28.


Russell AF (2016). Chestnut-crowned babblers: Dealing with climatic adversity and uncertainty in the Australian arid zone. In Koenig WD, Dickinson JL (Eds.) Cooperative breeding in vertebrates: studies in ecology, evolution and behavior, MA, USA: Cambridge University Press, 150-164.
Fleisher PJ, Bailey PK, Natel EM, Muller EH, Cadwell DH, Russell A (2010). The 1993–1995 surge and foreland modification, Bering Glacier, Alaska. In  (Ed) Bering Glacier: Interdisciplinary Studies of Earth's Largest Temperate Surging Glacier, Geological Society of America.
Cant MA, Johnstone RA, Russell AF (2009). Reproductive skew and the evolution of menopause. In Hager R, Jones CB (Eds.) Reproductive Skew in vertebrates: proximate and ultimate causes, Cambridge University Press, 24-50.
Caseldine C, Russell A, Harðardóttir J, Knudsen Ó (2005). Preface. In  (Ed) Iceland — Modern Processes and Past Environments, Elsevier, ix-x.
Russell AF (2004). Mammals: comparisons & contrasts. In Koenig WD, Dickinson JL (Eds.) Ecology of Cooperative breeding in birds, vol II, MA, USA: Cambridge University Press, 210-227.

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External Engagement and Impact

Awards/Honorary fellowships

Adjunct Positions

2013-present: Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Fowlers Gap Arid Zone Research Station, University of New South Wales, Australia

2011-present: Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Station d’Ecologie Expérimentale du CNRS à Moulis, France

2009-2012: Adjunct Senior Research Fellow, Department of Brain, Behaviour & Evolution, Macquarie University, NSW, Australia.

2006-2007: Adjunct Research Fellow, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, NSW, Australia.

Committee/panel activities

Scientific Duties

Reviewer Australian Research Council (2008-present)

Scientific Advisor for ASAB Education Committee (2009-2014)

Associate Editor for Journal of Animal Ecology (2007-2014)

Royal Society Project Grants Review Committee (2007-2010)

Editorial responsibilities

Post-grad Exams

2005: PhD Thesis, Iain Barr, University of Sheffield, UK (internal)
2007: MSc Thesis, Melinda Ridgway, University of Cambridge, UK (external)
2011: PhD Thesis, Iker Valquero-Alba, University of Exeter, UK (internal)
2012: PhD Thesis, Alex Georgiev, Harvard University, USA (external)
2012: PhD Thesis, Ada Grabowska-Zhang, University of Oxford, UK (external)
2013: PhD Thesis, Jenni Sanderson, University of Exeter, UK (internal)
2017: PhD Thesis, James Rapkin, UNiversity of Exeter, UK (internal)
2019: PhD Thesis, Mukta Watve, University of Bern, CH (external)


Papers: > 20 journals, including Nature, Current Biology, PNAS, TREE.

Grants: ANR (France), NSF (USA), NERC (UK), Israel Research Foundation, German Research Foundation, ARC (Australia).

Invited lectures

Invited Plenaries

Proximate and ultimate causes of cooperation (Zurich, Switzerland 2014)

Midi Pyrenee Regional Public Lecture (Toulouse, France 2012)

Biology in Lund Annual Meeting, Lund University (Sweden 2012)

Workshop on Evolution & Development of Human Behaviour (Harvard 2011).

European meeting for PhD students (Poland 2010).

Integrating cooperation research across Europe (Hungary 2010).

International Society for Behavioural Ecology: Post-conference Symposium (2006).

Association for the Teaching of Psychology (ASAB funded, Swansea, 2005).

International Symposium of Reproductive and Social Behaviours: an Integrative Approach (Paris, 2005).

Social insect society annual meeting (London 2001)


Invited Seminars

University of Bern, Switzerland (2019)

University of Bern, Switzerland (2018)

University of Sussex, UK (2013)

University of Zurich and ETH, Joint seminar series, Switzerland (2013)

Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, UK (2012)

Dept. Evolution & Biodiversity, Paul Sabatier University, Toulouse, France (2012)

CNRS Moulis, France (2012)

Dept. Ecology, University of Dijon, France (2012)

HEB, Harvard University, USA (2011)

Dept. Psychology, Harvard University, USA (2011)

OEB, Harvard University, USA (2010)

Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, USA (2010)

Ecology & Conservation, Boston University, USA (2010)

HEB, Harvard University, USA (2009)

CISAB, Macquarie University, Australia (2008)

Workshop (on maternal effects), University of Wollongong, Australia (2008)

Department of Botany & Zoology, Australian National University (2007)

Institute of Zoology & Eco-Ethology, University of Neuchâtel, CH (2007)

Department of Biological Sciences, University of Leeds, UK (2006)

School of Biosciences, University of Exeter at Falmouth, UK (2006)

Department of Biology, University of Wollongong, Australia (2005)

Department of Biology, University of Sherbrooke, Canada (2005)

ETH, Zurich, Switzerland (2005)

Department of Botany & Zoology, Australian National University (2003)

Department of Zoology, University of Oxford (2003, 1997)

Department of Zoology, University of Lund, Sweden (2002)

Department of Animal & Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield (2002)

Division of Evolutionary & Environmental Biology, University of Glasgow (2002)

Department of Ecology, University of Dijon, France (2001)

School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol (2001)

School of Biological Sciences, University of Cardiff (2001)

Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge (1999)

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I am a Fellow of Higher Education Academy (ASPIRE) and currently lead modules for Level 2 (BIO 2428 Development of Behaviour), Level 3 (BIO 3418 Galapagos Fieldcourse), and MSc (LESM006 Art of Science). I also co-run BIO 2444 The Level 2 Scotland Fieldcourse. 

Year 2:

  • BIO 2428 Development of Behaviour – Module Coordinator
    We often observe the behaviour of animals at some time point in their lives and use evolutionary theory to explain the observations. It is important to remember, however, that the behaviour of animals is not only the culmination of an evolutionary process, but a developmental one; beginning at conception and ending with our observation. This developmental process is affected by the conditions that offspring experience during development and the (often different) selection pressures acting at each step of the way. In this module you will learn about the key factors that can influence the development of animals and the consequences of such developmental experiences for animal and human behaviour throughout life.
  • BIO2444 Practical Skills in Ecology – Scotland Fieldcourse

Year 3:

  • BIO 3418 Galapagos Field Course Module Coordinator
    On 15th September 1835, the extinct volcanoes of San Cristobal were spotted from the Beagle. After just five weeks exploring the Galapagos Islands, the young Charles Darwin was indelibly marked by their biogeography, and this experience would prove central to his deduction that life on Earth evolved from common ancestry by natural selection. Today, the Galapagos Islands are a melting pot where the locals meet tourists and each group meets scientists. A typical field course to San Cristobal in the Galapagos Islands will introduce you the fauna of four key biomes: oceanic, coastal, lowland/urban and highland. In each, we will introduce you to the interplay (which is often positive) of science, tourism and the local economy.
  • BIO 3402 Nature via Nurture - Module  coordinator (NOT CURRENTLY RUNNING)
    Natural selection operates on individual phenotypes. Understanding the chief generators of phenotypic variation therefore lies at the heart of attempts to understand the process of evolution by natural selection, and is also consequential for both conservation biology and the emerging field of evolutionary medicine. It is becoming increasingly clear that phenotypes are governed not only by underlying genotype, but by direct and indirect
    ‘environmental’ effects on patterns of gene expression. Such epigenetic effects not only affect personal phenotype, but can be heritable; influencing the phenotype of offspring and grand-offspring. As a consequence, recent evolutionary theory proposes that epigenetic processes represent an overlooked element in evolutionary processes by altering the probability and speed with which adaptive phenotypes can be generated.


  • LESM006 Art of Science Module Coordinator
  • The abilities to extract information from the environment and to communicate with conspecifics are probably ubiquitous features of animal life, which have been under selection for at least 500 million years. Humans, through the emergence of language coupled with the formulation of the scientific method have simply linked these fundamental capacities to extract and communicate information to an extreme. The ability to do each successfully in combination is now central to a successful degree and future career in Science, Consultancy and related Industry. This module aims to help you achieve your current and future goals by providing training in key areas - from question inception and formulation, through data collection and analysis, to communication using the myriad forms available; it will finish with communication through CV, cover letters and interview techniques. The teaching style will combine real-life examples coupled with extensive discussion to foster the self-reflection necessary to becoming a confident and independent scientist in the modern world



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Supervision / Group

Postdoctoral researchers

  • Camille Coye, British Academy Fellow: Looking for signs of language precursors in babblers
  • Fumi Nomano, Japanese Research Fellow: Adaptive strategies in cooperative babblers
  • Mukta Watve

Postgraduate researchers

  • Joseph Mine M by Res: Phonemic contrasts in babbler calls
  • Helen Mylne M by Res: Function of nestling stimulation calls in babblers
  • Louis ONeill PhD: Causes and consequneces of mating system variation in babblers (with Simon Griffith, Macquarie)
  • Ellie Tew M by Res: Element transitions in babbler calls


  • Marie-France Barrette (2012) PhD: University of Sherbrooke, Canada; Joint with Marco Festa-Bianchet. Socio-ecological stress during gestation and maternal hormone effects in meerkats
  • Lucy Browning (2010) PhD: University of Cambridge. Contributions to cooperation in chestnut-crowned babbler (Joint with Nick Davies).
  • Aisha Bruendl (2014-2017) PhD: University of Exeter, UK and CNRS a Moulis, France. Mothers as informants of ecology in blue tits (joint with Alexis Chaine)
  • Vicky Bywater (MRes 2015) MRes: Macquarie University, Australia. Ecology of chirriping wedgebill (Joint with Simon Griffith)
  • Jodie Crane (2013) PhD: University of Sheffield, UK. Vocal communication in the cooperatively breeding chestnut-crowned babbler (Joint with Ben Hatchwell).
  • Matt Creasey (2016) University of Exeter, UK. Developmental causes and behavioural consequences of animal personalities in chestnut-crowned babblers (joint with Sasha Dall)
  • Duncan Gillespie (2010) PhD: University of Sheffield. Reproductive and post-reproductive senescence and the evolution of reproductive tactics in humans (Joint with Virpi Lummaa).
  • Mirkka Lahdenpera (2009) PhD: University of Turku, Finland. Aging, menopause and the evolution of post-reproductive lifespan in humans. (Joint with Virpi Lummaa).
  • Andrea Liebl (2013-2016) University of Exeter, UK. Parental effects and the adaptive generation of helpers in cooperative breeders
  • Fumi Nomano (2013) PhD: Hokkaido University, Japan. Causes and consequences of social networks in chestnut-crowned babblers.
  • Ian Rickard (2008) PhD: University of Sheffield. Early condition effects on human life-history tactics (Joint with Virpi Lummaa).
  • James Savage (2013) PhD: University of Cambridge, UK. Consequences of maternal investment on helper investment strategies in chestnut-crowned babbles (Joint with Rufus Johnstone).
  • Enrico Sorato (2012) PhD: Macquarie University, Australia; Joint with Simon Griffith. Ecological effects and social correlates of group living in chestnut-crowned babblers
  • Beth Woodward (2007) PhD: University of Sheffield. Maintenance of cooperative breeding in migratory long-tailed tits. (Joint with Ben Hatchwell).

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Office Hours:

Monday and Friday 4-5 pm

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