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Jack Thorley

Jack Thorley

Post-doctoral Research Associate

T12a (T12)
Office Phone: 01223 (3)36682 or 01223 (3)36638

Research Interests

Life history trade-offs in co-operative breeders

Damaraland Mole-rats, Fukomys damarensis: 

The social mole-rats are physiological enigmas, as exemplified by their ability to withstand hypoxia, their resistance to cancer-like phenotypes, and their extraordinary longevity. Such characteristics have catapulted social mole-rats (largely naked mole-rats) into the limelight as model organisms in medicine. Yet, few studies have intensively studied individual mole-rats across their development in an ecologically relevant setting, which hinders our ability to draw meaningful inferences about life history covariation in mole-rats from an ecological perspective. Our lab is seeking to address this imbalance in longitundinally studying a large number of Damaraland mole-rat groups in artificial 'burrow' systems in the Kalahari. Using this system, I am examining how individual behaviour covaries with growth and ageing in Damaraland mole-rats, and therein examine the relative costs of reproduction or subordination. More broadly I am motivated by the association between sociality and longevity in mammals.

Meerkats, Suricata suricatta:

Co-operative breeders are an interesting case study for life history theory, with the apparent load-lightening effects of helpers granting reproductive individuals high levels of fecundity across unusually long lives. Yet, the high reproductive success of a select few females and males results in intense competition for breeding rights in both sexes. Through my meerkat work, I investigate the relative influence of helping versus competition in shaping individual life history trajectories, with particular emphasis upon sex differences in rates of ageing.


  • quantitative behaviour
  • Behaviour Change

Key Publications

Thorley J, Mendonça R, Vullioud P, Torrents-Tico M, Zottl M, Gaynor D, & T Clutton-Brock (2018) No task specialization among helpers in Damaraland mole-rats. Anim. Behav. 143: 9-24.

Thorley J, Katlein N, Goddard K, Zöttl M, & Clutton-Brock T (2018) Reproduction triggers adaptive increases in body size in female mole-rats. Proc. R. Soc. B. 285: 20180897.

Thorley J & Lord AM (2015) Laying date is a plastic and repeatable trait in a  population of Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus. Ardea 103: 69–78. doi:10.5253/arde.v103i1.a7

Other Publications

Zöttl M, Thorley J, Gaynor D, Bennett NC, & Clutton-Brock T (2016) Variation in growth of Damaraland mole-rats is explained by competition rather than by functional specialization for different tasks. Biol. Lett. 12: 20160820. doi:

Thorley J & Clutton-Brock T (2017) Kalahari vulture declines, through the eyes of meerkats. Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology. Ostrich, 88(2): 177-181. doi:10.2989/00306525.2016.1257516