Department of
Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior

Evolution, Ecology, and Behavior News

Avian Brood Parasites Are About to Have Their Adaptability Tested

The future of parasitic birds, which lay their eggs in other nests, is totally dependent on their hosts' ability to adjust to climate change.

Imagine it’s spring in the year 2048. A Common Cuckoo returns from Africa to her breeding grounds in Europe, just as her ancestors have for thousands of years—except that lately the species has arrived earlier.

Early acoustic experiences alter methylation in songbird embryo's forebrain

Researchers at University of Illinois and City University of New York have recently carried out a study investigating the effects of early acoustic experiences on gene activation in songbirds. Their paper, published in Elsevier's journal Neuroscience Letters, shows that the early exposure to salient acoustic cues can significantly influence the development of social behaviors in songbirds.

Team cracks eggs for science

Avian brood parasites lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species, forcing the hosts to do the hard work of raising the unrelated young. A team of scientists wanted to simulate the task of piercing an egg – a tactic that only a minority of host birds use to help grasp and eject the foreign eggs. Their study offers insight into some of the physical challenges the discriminating host birds face.

UI Wildlife Society petitions for bird-safe campus architecture

Earlier this year, Emmarie Alexander, junior in ACES, sat at her desk in her room in her second-floor apartment, taking one of her Zoom classes. Alexander was startled by a loud noise, quickly turning her attention away from her class. She investigated the noise and realized a bird had collided with her window, now laid on the ground below.

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.