Exploiters and exploited: interspecific communication and recognition in the fork-tailed drongo

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Zoology


Avian brood parasites manipulate other birds into raising unrelated offspring by laying their own eggs in host nests. In the case of virulent brood parasites, none of the hosts' young survive. This interaction has led to an arms race between the hosts and parasites over evolutionary time, with escalating defences and exploitation. The fork-tailed drongo (Dicrurus
adsimilis) is one such host species, parasitized by the African cuckoo (Cuculus gularis). Yet, as information centres and mimics, drongos are also involved with other species in a spectrum of interactions that range from mutualistic to parasitic. This research focuses on putting host-parasite coevolution into a community context in order to understand the
sometimes surprising ways that defences and counter-defences evolve. I propose to tackle questions of recognition, communication and manipulation, which I will aim to answer primarily through experiments at an established study site in Choma, Zambia. I will focus on four main questions: 1) In what circumstances and how do hosts recognise parasitic
chicks? 2) Can drongos use mimicry of raptor calls to deter nest predators and parasites? 3) Do drongos exploit cuckoo-hawk mimicry to recruit assistance from other species? 4) Is there an association between drongos and white helmet shrikes - and if so, is this in a mutualistic context?


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S007164/1 30/09/2019 29/09/2027
2525099 Studentship NE/S007164/1 16/04/2021 15/10/2024 Mairenn Norah Collins Attwood