Research News Archive
Welcome to the EGI's research news archive, all the latest and and archived research news can be found here, including access to papers and journals.
» Sperm and sex peptide stimulate aggression in female DrosophilaMay 17, 2017
A new paper published in Nature Ecology & Evolution by Eleanor Bath, Nathalie Seddon, and Stu Wigby of the EGI, investigated how mating influences female aggression in fruit flies. Mating was found to double the amount of time females spent fighting each other over food. This increase in aggression after mating was stimulated by sperm, and in part by an associated seminal fluid protein, the sex peptide. Interestingly, this post-mating increase in aggression was not directly linked to the costs of egg production. These results suggest that male ejaculates can have a surprisingly direct influence on female aggression. Link to paper here.
» Winter social networks shape the breeding locations of great titsSeptember 15, 2016
A new paper published in Ecology Letters by Josh Firth & Ben Sheldon assessed how the spatial structure of breeding great tits is related to their previous winter social associations. Great tits form loose intermingling flocks as they search for food in the winter, but then make a single set decision on where to settle for building their nest and raising their chicks over the spring. Through tracking thousands of birds’ winter social associations and their subsequent breeding decisions over three years, the new study shows great tits breed nearest to the flock mates they were most associated with over winter. On a finer scale, they also arranged their territory boundaries so that they ‘neighboured’ their most preferred winter affiliates. Through influencing where individuals locate themselves, social networks may shape the future environments that individuals experience. The findings also illustrate how social associations at one point in life can carry-over into an important stage later on. Link to the paper here. Coverage in Daily Mail here.
» The great tit genomeJanuary 25, 2016
An international collaboration, led by the Netherlands and the UK, and involving the EGI, publishes the great tit genome in Nature Communications today. This high quality genome assembly details genome evolution, selection, demographic history and remarkably low population structure across multiple populations of the great tit, and suggests that selection has disproportionately targeted genes associated with learning and memory. The paper also reports analyses of the methylome, and shows links between methylation and selection across the genome. Link to paper here.
» The socio-ecology of fear: How predators shape the social relationships of great titsSeptember 19, 2016
A new paper published in Scientific Reports by Bernhard Voelkl, Josh Firth & Ben Sheldon investigated how perceived predator pressure influences group composition and social relationships in flocks of British tits. In this experimental study the authors used model sparrowhawks to launch attacks on flocks of wild great tits and blue tits whilst monitoring their social dynamics. Non-lethal attacks caused instantaneous turn-over and mixing of group composition within foraging flocks. A single experimental ‘attack’ lasting on average less than three seconds, caused the amount of turn-over expected over three hours (2.0—3.8 hours) of undisturbed foraging, suggesting that nonlethal predator effects can greatly alter group composition within populations. This has implications for the birds’ social behaviour by increasing the number of potential interaction partners, as well as longer-term consequences for pair formation and emergent effects determined by social structure. This study provides the first evidence based on in depth monitoring of a social network that predators influence the social structure of groups, and it offers new perspectives on the key drivers of social behaviour in wild populations. Link to paper here.
» Manipulating social networks changes information flow and social learningJune 1, 2016
A new study published in Biology Letters by Josh Firth, Ben Sheldon and Damien Farine monitored the spread of new information across a community of wild birds whilst experimentally manipulating which individuals could access the same resources as one another. This showed that as birds became more socially connected to those they could forage with, they were also more likely to gain information from them. They also prioritised learning from these individuals in comparison to those who could not access the same resources as them. This illustrates how changes to social structure can influence information flow, and how birds can adopt learning strategies to prioritise information from relevant tutors. Link to paper here
» Experimental evidence that social relationships determine individual foraging behaviourNovember 13, 2015
A new paper published in Current Biology by Josh Firth, Bernhard Voelkl, Damien Farine and Ben Sheldon examined how wild birds valued their relationship with their mated partner in comparison to their access to food. Using automated feeding stations, mated pairs were split so that male could only access the feeding stations that the female couldn’t, and vice versa. However, the birds chose to sacrifice access to food in order to stay with their partner over the winter period. This led to birds associating with other individuals based on their partner’s choices, rather than just their own preferences. Also, birds that followed their mate to feeders they couldn’t access themselves learnt, over time, to scrounge from them. The experiment illustrates how the social relationships that an individual holds can determine their behaviour, their position within a social network, and their social foraging strategies. Link to the paper here; The Conversation write-up; Media links: The Times; The Telegraph; The Daily Mail; Science.
Wytham Woods, Oxfordshire.