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Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior

Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior News

In Defense of the Cowbird with Sarah Winnicki

Pity the poor cowbird. Under-appreciated at best and outright hated at worst, the cowbird and its parasitic nest ways certainly lend themselves to strong opinions. But it is a remarkable bird in its own right, capable of amazing developmental feats that allow it to fit into its very odd niche. In this episode of the American Birding Podcast, PhD student Sarah Winnicki (Hauber Lab) makes the case for cowbirds, arguing that you don’t have to love them, but you should respect them.

Center for Advanced Study announces 2021-22 associates and fellows

The Center for Advanced Study has appointed nine faculty members from the College of LAS, including associate Mark Hauber, as associates or fellows for the 2021-22 academic year. They were among 20 faculty members chosen across campus.

Center for Advanced Study (CAS) associates and fellows are tenured and untenured faculty members, respectively, whose proposals are selected in an annual competition. Associates and fellows are granted a one-semester teaching release to pursue a scholarly or creative project.

How an Eight-Sided ‘Egg’ Ended Up in a Robin’s Nest

Last spring, robins living on an Illinois tree farm sat on some unusual eggs.

Alongside the customary brilliant blue ovoids they had laid were some unusually shaped objects. Although they had the same color, some were long and thin, stretched into pills. Others were decidedly pointy — so angular, in fact, that they bore little resemblance to eggs at all. If robins played Dungeons and Dragons, they might have thought, “Why do I have an eight-sided die in my nest?”

Shipwrecked ivory a treasure trove for understanding elephants and 16th century trading

In 1533, a Portuguese trading vessel carrying forty tons of gold and silver coins along with other precious cargo went missing on its way to India. In 2008, this vessel, known as the Bom Jesus, was found in Namibia, making it the oldest known shipwreck in southern Africa. Now, an international collaboration of researchers in Namibia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States reporting in the journal Current Biology on December 17 have found that the ship's cargo included more than 100 elephant tusks,

Professors Alison Bell and Alex Harmon-Threatt recognized for leadership and research

Four professors in the College of LAS have been named Richard and Margaret Romano Professorial Scholars for their leadership and research.

Richard Romano (BS, ’54, chemical engineering) and his wife, Margaret, established the program, which provides faculty members with $25,000 per year for their work. This year’s scholars include Alex Harmon-Threatt and Alison Bell.

Study finds sexual lineage plays key role in transgenerational plasticity

A new pair of papers published in the Journal of Animal Ecology has shown that sexual lineage matters for how offspring receive adaptations from parents in stickleback fish. Researchers in the Bell Lab studied how parents who were exposed to predators passed the behavioral information to their offspring in different ways based on sex.

Have you become obsessed with bugs or hummingbirds? In the pandemic, you’re not alone.

In the midst of the grief, confusion and anger of the past few months, many Americans have developed a new obsession with the creepy little things in life, by which I mean bugs.

I’ve never heard so many people talking about bugs as I have through this spring and summer, never seen so many social media posts dedicated to tiny critters that buzz and crawl and sting.

In times of ecological uncertainty, brood parasites hedge their bets

Some birds lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species and let the host parents raise their young. A new study finds that in times of environmental flux, these brood parasites “diversify their portfolios,” minimizing the risks of their unorthodox lifestyle by increasing the number and variety of hosts they select as adoptive parents.

Study of giant ant heads using simple models may aid bio-inspired designs

Researchers have developed a simple model to study how ants balance their large heads relative to their body size. Such models may have useful applications in bio-inspired designs. They use a variety of modelling approaches to study form and function. By using a basic biomechanical model for studying body form and center of mass stability in ants, new research identifies the benefits of “simple models” and hope that it can be used for bio-inspired designs.

Cowbirds change their eggs’ sex ratio based on breeding time

Brown-headed cowbirds show a bias in the sex ratio of their offspring depending on the time of the breeding season, researchers report in a new study. More female than male offspring hatch early in the breeding season in May, and more male hatchlings emerge in July.