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Faculty of Health and Life Sciences

Dr Thor Veen

Dr Thor Veen

Postdoctoral researcher (visiting)

 +44 (0)1326 371872

 Daphne du Maurier 


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



2008 PhD University of Groningen, Netherlands
2001 MSc University of Groningen, Netherlands

Thesis Mating decisions in a hybrid zone

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Research interests

I am interested in a wide variety of evolutionary and ecological questions. During my PhD I studied the mating decisions between two flycatchers species (the collared and pied flycatchers) using a variety of different approaches. My current research is directed towards understanding signal use in sexual selection and speciation.

Research projects

Sexual selection has traditionally been subdivided into two processes, intrasexual selection (‘male-male competition’) and intersexual selection (‘female choice’). Consequently, the use of signals in both processes has mainly been studied in separation, although empirical data suggests that these processes work in concert and that a single ornament can be used in both processes (a ‘dual-function signal’). During my post-doc I aim to work towards a closer integration of both processes using both theoretical methods and empirical study systems focussing on dual-function signals. This project is financed by the Dutch Science Foundation.

The evolution of dual-function signals
I will try to develop a theoretical framework in which the evolution of signal use in male-male competition and female choice can be studied in separation and acting together. So far there is a lack of such integrative theoretical models. With the use of such a model we hope to gain better insights in the evolution of  dual-function signals and generate qualitative prediction which can by tested in empirical study systems.

Song as a dual-function signal in crickets
In crickets, earlier studies showed that song is both used in male-male competition and female choice. In a series of lab experiments I will investigate how song is used in both sexual selection contexts and what information the signals conveys. The information content of a signal is very important; for example a male might want to signal its fighting capabilities to an opponent, but its paternal qualities to a prospecting female. A key question is whether or not this can be achieved with a ‘single’ signal.


1. T. Veen, D. S. Richardson, K. Blaakmeer & J. Komdeur (2000): Experimental evidence for innate predator recognition in the Seychelles warbler. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 267, 2253-2258.

2. T. Veen, T. Borge, S. C. Griffith, G.-P. Sætre, S. Bures, L. Gustafsson & B. C. Sheldon (2001): Hybridization and adaptive mate choice in flycatchers. Nature 411, 45-50.

3. A. Qvarnström, N. Svedin, C. Wiley, T. Veen & L. Gustafsson (2005): Cross-fostering reveals seasonal changes in the fitness of two competing species in flycatchers. Biology Letters 1, 1-4.

4. C. Wiley, N. Fogelberg, S. A. Sæther, T. Veen, N. Svedin, J. Vogel Kehlenbeck & A. Qvarnström (2007): Direct benefits and costs for hybridizing Ficedula flycatchers. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20, 854-864.

5. T. Veen, N. Svedin, J. Forsman, M. B. Hjernquist, A. Qvarnström, K. A. Thuman Hjernquist, J. Träff & M. Klaassen (2007): Does migration of hybrids contribute to post-zygotic isolation in flycatchers? Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 274, 707-712.

6. S. A. Sæther, G.-P. Sætre, T. Borge, C. Wiley, N. Svedin, G. Andersson, T. Veen et al. (2007): Sex chromosome–linked species recognition and evolution of reproductive isolation in flycatchers Science 318, 95-97.

7. N. Svedin, C. Wiley, T. Veen, L. Gustafsson & A. Qvarnström (2008): Natural and sexual selection against hybrid flycatchers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 275, 735-744.

8. T. Veen, J. Träff, F. J. Weissing & B. C. Sheldon (2009): Reduced costs of mixed-species pairings in flycatchers: by-product or female strategy? Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 63, 329-337.

9. M. B. Hjernquist, T. Veen, L. Font & M. Klaassen (2009): High individual repeatability and population differentiation in stable isotope ratios in winter-grown collared flycatcher Ficedula albicollis feathers. Journal of Avian Biology 40, 102-107.

10. T. Veen, B. C. Sheldon, F. J. Weissing, M. E. Visser, A. Qvarnström & G.-P. Sætre: Temporal differences in food abundance promotes coexistence between two congeneric passerines. Oecologia, published online.

Research networks

Sander van Doorn (University of Bern, Switzerland)
Laura Font (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Netherlands)
Mårten Hjernquist (University of Uppsala, Sweden)
John Hunt (University of Exeter, UK)
Marcel Klaassen (NIOO, Netherlands)
Anna Qvarnström (University of Uppsala, Sweden)
Johan Träff (Sweden)
Tom Tregenza (University of Exeter, UK)
Franjo Weissing (University of Groningen, Netherlands)

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