Dr Caroline Dingle
Associate Research Fellow

Research

Research interests

My research integrates genetic and behavioral studies to answer questions regarding the biological processes that generate and maintain biological diversity, particularly in tropical ecosystems.

I am currently a member of Dr. Joah Madden‘s research group.

Research projects

Current research projects:

 

The role of learning in the development of secondary sexual traits

Culturally inherited traits and speciation

Theoretical models have shown that plasticity through social learning can lead to rapid generation of geographic diversification in acoustic signals, which under certain conditions could promote assortative mating. Song learning therefore has the potential to accelerate the rate of speciation. However, currently there is little empirical evidence of a role for learned signals in the creation of reproductive barriers. I am interested in testing the potential for learned mating signals to reduce gene flow in contact zones between closely related taxa in the South American Andes.

Sexual selection and female song

Traditionally, studies of sexual selection have examined how males use elaborate ornaments and displays to attract the attention of passive but choosy females. Species in which females sing provide an alternative scenario in which females actively court males. My PhD research on duetting behaviour in the grey-breasted wood-wrens revealed that males and females use their songs in similar contexts; both males and females sing to defend their territory and to repel same-sex rivals. My research also revealed that female songs are as complex as male songs, and that both males and females have large repertoires. These results suggest that female song may be shaped by sexual selection, and variation in female song may be important for mate choice and for maintaining species boundaries. I am interested in testing these hypotheses in the grey-breasted wood-wrens in Ecuador.

Function and evolution of avian vocal duetting

 

Research networks

  • Dr Hans Slabbekoorn, University of Leiden (with Wouter Halfwerk, Jelmer Poelstra, and Dusan Brinkhuisen): investigating the role of culturally inherited traits in the formation of reproductive barriers.
  • Center for Tropical Research at UCLA & Nasa’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory: combining satellite-derived time series of environmental correlates with field and genetic studies to determine the linkages between human activities, climate change and distributions of biodiversity over broad spatial scales in South America.
  • Dr Nigel Collar (BirdLife International) & Dr Claire Spottiswoode: Phylogenetic analyses of two species of endangered African larks. 
  • Dr Vicky Jones (BirdLife International) & Dr Joe Hoffman: hybridization between two species of warblers in Cyprus, the endemic Cyprus Warbler and the invading Sardinian Warbler.

 

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