Parasitism and cooperation in the nests of carrion crows
Dr Diana Bolopo will present the Department of Biological Sciences seminar with a talk entitled, "Parasitism and cooperation in the nests of carrion crows".
Parasites may become a serious threat to the health of the hosts and to their reproductive success. Birds in particular may also suffer from brood parasites, which are bird species that lay their eggs in the nest of other species, so that the foster parents raise the parasitic chicks.
In Northern Spain, carrion crows Corvus corone form cooperatively breeding groups and they are the preferred host of the brood parasitic great spotted cuckoo Clamator glandarius, unlike in the rest of the Paleartic where the magpie Pica pica is the primary host. Host change in this specialist brood parasite was caused by environmental factors, such as vegetation availability and nest clustering.
The host-parasite interactions between cuckoo and crow proved to have more subtle aspects than previously thought. In fact, environmental (i.e. predation levels) and physiological (i.e. host chick age) conditions may change their parasitic relationship into a mutualism. The evaluation of the cuckoo’s mating system uncovered the plasticity of its genetic mating patterns that may be associated to large fluctuations in population density.
Dr Diana Bolopo studied several aspects of host-parasite systems in order to explain host change in cuckoos and cooperative nest sanitation behaviour in an uncommon cooperative breeding population of carrion crows. After finishing her PhD in 2014, Diana received a post-doc fellowship to work in Japan and New Caledonia studying Common Cuckoos Cuculus canorus and Shining Bronze Cuckoos Chalcites lucidus with Prof Keisuke Ueda and Prof Jim Briskie. Her UCT postdoctoral research fellowship started at the FitzPatrick Institute in July 2016. She will be working with Dr Robert Thomson on the interactions and coevolution between African Pygmy Falcons Polihierax semitorquatus and Sociable Weavers Philetairus socius.