We study the ecology
and evolution of reproductive behavior in birds. We are
particularly interested in extra-
Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC)
One gene family that has been of great interest is the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), because it plays a key role in recognizing foreign pathogens and it is also been linked to mate choice.
In two populations of the common yellowthroat we have found that females prefer to mate with males that have lager or more colorful ornaments, and these ornaments are also associated with MHC variation, oxidative stress and survival (Dunn et al. 2013, Whittingham et al. 2015).
Immune genes & Grouse Conservation
Bird Color paper published in Science Advances
(27 March 2015)
Popular News coverage:
MHC in Yellowthroats paper published in Molecular Ecology (17 March 2015)
Glen Bartley photo
Zach Bateson awarded NSF Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant
( 22 January 2015)
Congratulations Zach !
Interestingly, the ornament preferred by females differs between populations. In Wisconsin, females prefer mates with larger black masks, but in New York females prefer males with larger or more saturated yellow bibs. Thus, the target of sexual selection differs between populations, but in either case the ornament preferred by females is a reliable indicator of male health and vigor. Just as predicted by Hamilton and Zuk.
research on greater prairie-
Our second major
project examines the immune genes of threatened species of
prairie grouse. We are examining the effects of population
size on variation at the MHC in prairie-
Why are Birds Bright and Colorful ?