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    RESEARCH PROJECTS
     
  • Avian life histories: ecology, evolution and diversity
  • Evolution of parental care
  • Signalling and the evolution of feather colouration in birds
  • Ecology and biogeography of avian communities




  • Avian life histories: ecology, evolution and diversity

    Bird species differ strongly in many life-history traits, including clutch size, incubation period duration, nestling growth rates or adult mortality. Explaining these differences in terms of adaptation to prevailing environmental factors is a major challenge of comparative biology. Based on data collated from literature, we study songbirds worldwide to reveal selective forces and constraints shaping avian life histories. We are also interested in phylogenetic and spatial components of life-history variation.


  • Evolution of parental care

    Animal species differ widely in patterns of parental care, ranging from simple guarding of young to elaborate biparental care with long-term offspring provisioning. In birds, biparental care is most prevalent, but species strongly differ in overall investment and in how males and females share their parental duties. Based on large-scale data from literature, we study ecological and social factors shaping parental care in birds. We study all bird species, but we also focus on songbird incubation behavior. Specifically, we study i) overall investment into incubation in songbirds, ii) male's share of incubation duties in songbirds, and iii) factors explaining sharing of parenting duties across all birds.


  • Signalling and the evolution of feather colouration in birds

    Bird feathers come in an astonishing variety of shapes and colours. Birds use them for camouflage as well as signalling to conspecifics. Both males and females might signal their quality to prospecting mates by a number of feather ornaments with different physiological and optical properties. These include colours based on pigments (the most frequent are carotenoids and melanins) and structural mechanisms. In the recent past, we studied functional ecology of ornaments in the Great Tit (Parus major). Currently, we focus on macroevolution and spatial variation of feather color in multiple feather patches in several songbird families.



  • Ecology and biogeography of avian communities

    We study functional diversity, community assembly, and niche partitioning in forest and woodland communities of Australian songbirds (Passeriformes), which include endemic and highly diverse families, e.g. honeyeaters (Meliphagidae), thornbills (Acanthizidae), fairy-wrens (Maluridae), Australasian robins (Petroicidae) and many other fascinating clades. We combine broad-scale macroevolutionary and macroecological analyses based on data from literature and museum collections with extensive fieldwork in Australia. We aim at revealing factors that are critical in shaping diversity and co-existence in communities of the unique fauna of Australian songbirds.