“Historians will have to face the fact that natural selection determined the evolution of cultures in the same manner as it did that of species. ”
In On Aggression, trans. M. Latzke (1966), 260.
Breeding is one of the fundamental behavioural traits in animals’ social life. Like other phenotypic traits, our knowledge of breeding in natural populations is ultimately dependent on a deep understanding of the genetic architecture and its functions. This link is weak due to the lack of comparative studies from both a functional and mechanistic perspective in wild populations showing considerable variation of breeding behaviour. We propose to investigate the neurogenomic basis of breeding system variation in shorebirds (plovers, sandpipers and allies). This group of birds exhibit immensely diverse breeding behaviour, even for closely related species living in a similar environment where genetic components probably play major role to influence variation in breeding behaviours.
Social behaviour, involving interactions with conspecifics in populations, is a basic trait in an animals’ life. Yet, we are only beginning to understand how social behaviour is orchestrated in nature. Group-living animals provide a wonderful opportunity to explore why individuals live in groups, and how individuals interact with each other in groups. In my project awarded by the BOU Career Development Bursary award, we started to investigate the group choice in a common resident bird in Europe: the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus). This project was focused into two parts: 1) to estimate the molecular genetic relatedness among individuals within and between social groups; 2) to understand the phenotypic variation among individuals within and between social groups.