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Dr Andrew Higginson

Dr Andrew Higginson

Senior Lecturer


 Washington Singer 101


Washington Singer Laboratories, University of Exeter, Perry Road, Prince of Wales Road, Exeter, EX4 4QG, UK


I study the evolution of animal behaviour using a combination of mathematical and computational modelling, behavioural experiments (on humans and other animals) and analysis of large datasets. After a PhD in Behavioural Science at the University of Nottingham I was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow and the University of Bristol, before being awarded a NERC Independent Research Fellowshp ( I am currently a Senior Lecturer in the Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour (CRAB).


PhD in Behavioural Science, University of Nottingham(2005)
BSc (Hons) in Behavioural Science, University of Nottingham (2001)


Senior Lecturer, University of Exeter, UK (2015 onwards)
NERC Independent Research Fellow, University of Bristol, UK (2014-15)
Research Associate, University of Bristol, UK (2010-14)
Research Associate, University of Glasgow, UK (2008-10)
Associate Lecturer, University of Derby, UK (2006-7)


Research group links

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Research interests

  • Evolution of individual differences in social groups
  • Nutrient- and toxin- dependent decision-making
  • Multi-trophic effects of predation
  • Morphological and behavioural defences during growth
  • Sexual signals and conflict

Research grants

  • 2014 NERC

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Journal articles

Higginson AD, Munafò M (In Press). Current Incentives for Scientists Lead to Underpowered Studies with Erroneous Conclusions. PLoS Biology, n/a-n/a.
Higginson A, Fawcett TW, Houston A, McNamara J (In Press). Trust your gut: using physiological states as a source of information is almost as effective as optimal Bayesian learning. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences Abstract.
Budaev S, Dumitru ML, Enberg K, Handeland SO, Higginson AD, Kristiansen TS, Opdal AF, Railsback SF, Rønnestad I, Vollset KW, et al (2024). Premises for a digital twin of the Atlantic salmon in its world: Agency, robustness, subjectivity and prediction. Aquaculture, Fish and Fisheries, 4(1). Abstract.
Olivier LA, Higginson AD (2023). Tests of reproductive skew theory: a review and prospectus. Evolutionary Ecology, 37(6), 871-892. Abstract.
Barreaux AMG, Higginson AD, Bonsall MB, English S (2022). Incorporating effects of age on energy dynamics predicts nonlinear maternal allocation patterns in iteroparous animals. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 289(1969). Abstract.
Kennedy P, Sumner S, Botha P, Welton NJ, Higginson AD, Radford AN (2021). Diminishing returns drive altruists to help extended family. NATURE ECOLOGY & EVOLUTION, 5(4), 468-+.  Author URL.
Ito K, Higginson AD, Ruxton GD, Papastamatiou YP (2021). Incorporating thermodynamics in predator–prey games predicts the diel foraging patterns of poikilothermic predators. Journal of Animal Ecology, 91(3), 527-539. Abstract.
Higginson AD (2020). Identifying reliable fitness proxies for growing animals responding to anthropogenic changes. Abstract.
Kennedy P, Higginson AD, Radford AR, Sumner S (2018). Altruism in a volatile world. Nature
Rosenström T, Fawcett TW, Higginson AD, Metsä-Simola N, Hagen EH, Houston AI, Martikainen P (2017). Adaptive and non-adaptive models of depression: a comparison using register data on antidepressant medication during divorce. PLoS ONE, 12, e0179495-e0179495.
Higginson AD (2017). Conflict over non-partitioned resources may explain between-species differences in declines: the anthropogenic competition hypothesis. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 71(7). Abstract.
Ito K, McNamara JM, Yamauchi A, Higginson AD (2017). The evolution of cooperation by negotiation in a noisy world. J Evol Biol, 30(3), 603-615. Abstract.  Author URL.
Halpin CG, Skelhorn J, Rowe C, Ruxton GD, Higginson AD (2017). The impact of detoxification costs and predation risk on foraging: Implications for mimicry dynamics. PLoS ONE, 12(1). Abstract.
Higginson AD, McNamara JM, Dall SRX (2017). Towards a behavioural ecology of obesity. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 40, e118-e118.
English S, Fawcett TW, Higginson AD, Trimmer PC, Uller T (2016). Adaptive Use of Information during Growth can Explain Long-Term Effects of Early Life Experiences. The American Naturalist, 187(5), 620-632.
Higginson AD, McNamara JM (2016). An adaptive response to uncertainty can lead to weight gain during dieting attempts. Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2016(1), 369-380.
Higginson AD, Fawcett TW (2016). Comment on 'Are physicists afraid of mathematics?'. New Journal of Physics
Higginson AD, Brunstrom JM, Ferriday D, Rogers PJ, Houston AI (2016). Dietary complexity, energy density, and obesity: an evolutionary perspective. Appetite, 101
Higginson AD, McNamara JM, Houston AI (2016). Fatness and fitness: Exposing the logic of evolutionary explanations for obesity. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 283(1822). Abstract.
Mcnamara JM, Higginson AD, Verhulst S (2016). The influence of the starvation-predation trade-off on the relationship between ambient temperature and body size among endotherms. Journal of Biogeography, 43(4), 809-819. Abstract.
Trimmer PC, Higginson AD, Fawcett TW, McNamara JM, Houston AI (2015). Adaptive learning can result in a failure to profit from good conditions: implications for understanding depression. Evol Med Public Health, 2015(1), 123-135. Abstract.  Author URL.
McNamara JM, Houston AI, Higginson AD (2015). Costs of foraging predispose animals to obesity-related mortality when food is constantly abundant. PLoS ONE, 10(11). Abstract.
Higginson AD, Fawcett TW, Houston AI (2015). Evolution of a flexible rule for foraging that copes with environmental variation. Current Zoology, 61(2), 303-312. Abstract.
Higginson AD, Speed MP, Ruxton GD (2015). Florivory as an Opportunity Benefit of Aposematism. The American Naturalist, 186(6), 728-741.
Higginson AD, Ruxton GD (2015). Foraging mode switching: the importance of prey distribution and foraging currency. Animal Behaviour, 105, 121-137.
Fawcett TW, Marshall JAR, Higginson AD (2015). The evolution of mechanisms underlying behaviour. Current Zoology, 61(2), 221-225.
Higginson AD, Houston AI (2015). The influence of the food–predation trade-off on the foraging behaviour of central-place foragers. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 69(4), 551-561.
Wilkinson GS, Breden F, Mank JE, Ritchie MG, Higginson AD, Radwan J, Jaquiery J, Salzburger W, Arriero E, Barribeau SM, et al (2015). The locus of sexual selection: moving sexual selection studies into the post-genomics era. J Evol Biol, 28(4), 739-755. Abstract.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Fallenstein B, Higginson AD, Houston AI, Mallpress DEW, Trimmer PC, McNamara JM (2014). The evolution of decision rules in complex environments. TRENDS IN COGNITIVE SCIENCES, 18(3), 153-161.  Author URL.
Higginson AD, McNamara JM, Houston AI (2014). The starvation–predation trade-off shapes the strategic use of protein for energy during fasting. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 359, 208-219.
Daly D, Higginson AD, Chen D, Ruxton GD, Speed MP (2012). Density‐dependent investment in costly anti‐predator defences: an explanation for the weak survival benefit of group living. Ecology Letters, 15(6), 576-583.
Higginson AD, Speed MP, Ruxton GD (2012). Effects of anti-predator defence through toxin sequestration on use of alternative food microhabitats by small herbivores. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 300, 368-375.
Higginson AD, Fawcett TW, Trimmer PC, McNamara JM, Houston AI (2012). Generalized Optimal Risk Allocation: Foraging and Antipredator Behavior in a Fluctuating Environment. AMERICAN NATURALIST, 180(5), 589-603.  Author URL.
Fawcett TW, Higginson AD (2012). Heavy use of equations impedes communication among biologists. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 109(29), 11735-11739.  Author URL.
Houston AI, Trimmer PC, Fawcett TW, Higginson AD, Marshall JAR, McNamara JM (2012). Is optimism optimal? Functional causes of apparent behavioural biases. BEHAVIOURAL PROCESSES, 89(2), 172-178.  Author URL.
HIGGINSON AD, DE WERT L, ROWLAND HM, SPEED MP, RUXTON GD (2012). Masquerade is associated with polyphagy and larval overwintering in Lepidoptera. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 106(1), 90-103.
Fawcett TW, Higginson AD (2012). Reply to Chitnis and Smith, Fernandes, Gibbons, and Kane: Communicating theory effectively requires more explanation, not fewer equations. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 109(45), E3058-E3059.  Author URL.
Higginson AD, McNamara JM, Houston AI (2012). The starvation-predation trade-off predicts trends in body size, muscularity, and adiposity between and within Taxa. The American Naturalist, 179(3), 338-350.
Higginson AD, Barnard CJ, Tofilski A, Medina L, Ratnieks F (2011). Experimental Wing Damage Affects Foraging Effort and Foraging Distance in Honeybees Apis mellifera. Psyche: a journal of entomology, 2011, 1-7.
Houston AI, Higginson AD, McNamara JM (2011). Optimal foraging for multiple nutrients in an unpredictable environment. Ecology Letters, 14(11), 1101-1107.
Higginson AD, Ruxton GD (2010). Adaptive changes in size and age at metamorphosis can qualitatively vary with predator type and available defenses. Ecology, 91(9), 2756-2768.
Higginson AD, Delf J, Ruxton GD, Speed MP (2010). Growth and reproductive costs of larval defence in the aposematic lepidopteran Pieris brassicae. Journal of Animal Ecology, 80(2), 384-392.
Broom M, Higginson AD, Ruxton GD (2010). Optimal investment across different aspects of anti-predator defences. Journal of Theoretical Biology, 263(4), 579-586.
Higginson AD, Ruxton GD, Skelhorn J (2010). The impact of flower-dwelling predators on host plant reproductive success. Oecologia, 164(2), 411-421. Abstract.  Author URL.
Higginson AD, Ruxton GD (2009). Dynamic models allowing for flexibility in complex life histories accurately predict timing of metamorphosis and antipredator strategies of prey. Functional Ecology, 23(6), 1103-1113.
Higginson AD, Ruxton GD (2009). Dynamic state-dependent modelling predicts optimal usage patterns of responsive defences. Oecologia, 160(2), 399-410.
Higginson AD, Reader T (2008). Environmental heterogeneity, genotype-by-environment interactions and the reliability of sexual traits as indicators of mate quality. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 276(1659), 1153-1159.
Higginson AD, Gilbert FS, Reader T, Barnard CJ (2007). Senkung der Besuchsraten von Honigbienen (Apis mellifera) an einzelnen Blütenständen des Lavendels (Lavandula stoechas) bei Entfernung farbiger Tragblätter (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Entomologia Generalis, 29(2-4), 165-178.
HIGGINSON AD, GILBERT FS, BARNARD CJ (2006). Morphological correlates of nectar production used by honeybees. Ecological Entomology, 31(3), 269-276.
Reader T, Higginson AD, Barnard CJ, Gilbert FS, Course TBEF (2006). The effects of predation risk from crab spiders on bee foraging behavior. Behavioral Ecology, 17(6), 933-939.
Higginson AD, Barnard CJ (2004). Accumulating wing damage affects foraging decisions in honeybees (Apis mellifera L.). Ecological Entomology, 29(1), 52-59.
Higginson AD, Gilbert F (2004). Paying for nectar with wingbeats: a new model of honeybee foraging. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 271(1557), 2595-2603.


Higginson AD (2021). Body Reserves and Food Storage. In  (Ed) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, Springer Nature, 685-692.
Higginson AD (2021). Calculating Starvation Risk. In  (Ed) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, Springer Nature, 862-865.
Higginson AD (2020). Body Reserves and Food Storage. In  (Ed) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, Springer Nature, 1-8.
Higginson AD (2020). Calculating Starvation Risk. In  (Ed) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science, Springer Nature, 1-4.

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I teach Advanced Statistics, Animal Behaviour, and Theory of Behaviour. 



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Office Hours:

Office Hours for Term 1 in 2020/21 are:

Mondays 10.30-11.30

Thursdays 09.30 - 10.30

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