Comparative Analysis of Sexual Selection in Parrots of the World

Abstract Birds are among the most diverse vertebrates in terms of sexually selected traits and mating behaviour, and comparative analysis can be a powerful tool to help understand the evolution of this diversity. The aim of this project is to compare sexual dimorphism and courtship displays among all (or most) parrots of the world, and to investigate the variation in these traits in the context of other life-history traits and ecology. The practical work will take place at the facilities of the Loro Parque Foundation on Tenerife, which keeps the largest parrot collection in the world with over 4000 individuals of 350 of the 372 species. You will combine measurements and observations from captive birds with information gathered from the literature on a variety of life-history traits and use modern phylogenetic comparative methods to make inferences about the evolution of those traits. During the yearly veterinary stock control of the 4000 parrots and from the associated database containing the life histories of all the individuals in the collection, many scientifically relevant data can be ‘harvested’. The project is ideally suited for multidisciplinary approaches, in particular with links to research on comparative cognition, evolutionary genetics, ecological meta-analyses, hormonal surveys and immuno-ecology.

Key words sexual selection, mating behaviour, parrots, comparative analysis, phylogeny

Advisors Mihai Valcu & Bart Kempenaers, MPIO Seewiesen, in collaboration with Auguste von Bayern

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