Here you can find some recent news and events, as well as a selection of recent papers and any new members that have joined the EGI.
Bird Ringing Demonstration at Farmoor Res Oxon, 25th February 2012
Birds of a feather nest together, according to a new study which has found that male great tits (Parus major) choose neighbours with similar personalities to their own. Oxford University researchers investigated whether the personality of birds influences their social lives – in particular who they choose to nest near. The study involved analysing social network structure in a population of wild great tits at Wytham Woods over six consecutive breeding seasons. Lead author and doctoral student Katerina Johnson explained: “We found that males, but not females, were picky about personalities, with males opting for like-minded neighbours. Our results emphasise that social interactions may play a key role in animal decisions.”
This tendency for males to associate with other males of similar personality may be particularly important during the breeding season when aggression peaks. Males fiercely defend their territories and compete for opportunities to mate with females and so shyer males may avoid setting up home near bolder, more aggressive individuals. Females, however, likely choose where to nest based on the attractive qualities of males.
The results also showed that this personality assortment amongst males was not affected by local environmental conditions. “Just like students choosing their flatmate”, Katerina commented, “birds may pay more attention to who they share their living space with than simply location.” She added: “Animal personalities can influence their social organisation and humans are likewise known to form social networks based on shared attributes including personality.”
Just like us, animals display individual behavioural differences that are consistent over time and stable across different situations and so may be thought of as personality traits. The researchers test the personality of great tits by introducing them to a novel environment and measuring how they respond. Whilst bold birds are keen to actively explore their new surroundings, shy birds tend to be more hesitant and cautious.
Katerina said: “This novel research finding may also help explain the evolution of personality and why individuals in a population differ in their behaviour. Rather than one particular personality type being favoured by natural selection as ‘the best’, different behavioural strategies may be equally good depending on who you choose to be your friends and neighbours.” Perhaps by nesting closer to others of similar character, this may improve a bird’s chances of survival and passing on their genes to the next generation. For example, although having bold neighbours may result in more skirmishes between males, they might also gain a shared benefit by more effectively repelling intruders. Link to paper here.
Here are some media links:
Two short-term field assistant positions are available to work collecting data on the breeding biology of blue tits and great tits, based at the Edward Grey Institute, Dept of Zoology, University of Oxford.
The post is available for two months full time, from approximately Tuesday 3rd April to Friday 1st June 2018. The main duties of the post-holders will be to carry out fieldwork at Wytham Woods, near Oxford, and to assist in the collation and input of data. Further details about the project see www.WythamTits.com. This is casual work and the hours are variable, but will include some weeks of very intensive fieldwork (the exact dates of the period of intensive work cannot be specified as it depends on the timing of the spring each year).
Successful candidates must have (or be qualified to obtain) a BTO ‘C’ permit to ring adult and nestling tits, be able to demonstrate skill and enthusiasm for biological research as well as experience of fieldwork under arduous conditions, and of working as part of a multi-disciplinary team. Informal inquiries about the positions should be emailed to Dr Keith McMahon (email@example.com).
The posts are based in a dynamic and expanding research-active institute, of c. 50 people, fully integrated within the Department of Zoology. Further details about the institute available at: http://egi.zoo.ox.ac.uk/.
Salary: £24,983 per annum (pro rata). Start date: around April 3rd 2018.
To apply: please email a CV, together with a covering letter explaining your interest and skills plus the email addresses of two referees to Ms Lynne Bradley, PA to Professor Ben Sheldon (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Closing date: Sunday 18th February. All applications will be acknowledged. Short-listed candidates will be interviewed in the last week of February 2018.
Cédric Jouanneau, January 12, 2018
Position: Visiting Graduate Intern
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Cormorant preening, Skomer