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Department of Zoology



Individuals in cooperatively breeding societies vary largely in the extent to which they help. Heterogeneity in helping effort can be considered as an iterative process of decision-making whereby an individual's decision to help or not is dependent upon their own attributes (state and age), and on the attributes of group members with which they co-reside. My current work is aimed at understanding to what extent helping effort in meerkat societies is heterogenous across individuals, explores the factors contributing to this heterogeneity, and investigates the consequences for group-level processes on which selection might act (reproductive output, persistence, etc). I am also interested in the operation of senescence in wild populations, and more general questions in behavioural ecology.

I also continue to work on Damaraland mole-rats, the focus of my PhD, conducting experiments with a captive population and analysing data from a medium-term capture-mark-recapture study in the Kalahari Desert.


Key publications: 


Thorley J, Duncan C, Sharp SP, Gaynor D, Manser MB, Clutton-Brock T. Sex-independent senescence in a cooperatively breeding mammal. (2020). Journal of Animal Ecology 89: 1080-1093.

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.



Other publications: 



Francioli Y, Thorley J, Finn K, Clutton-Brock T, Zöttl M. (2020) Beeders are less active foragers than non-breeders in wild Damaraland mole-rats. Biology Letters 16: 20200475.

Stervander M*, Dierickx EG*, Thorley J*, de L Brooke M, Westerdahl, H. (2020). High MHC gene copy number maintains diversity despite homozygosity in a Critically Endangered single-island endemic bird, but no evidence of MHC-based mate choice. 2020. Molecular Ecology.*equal contributions

Thorley J (2020) The case for extended lifespan in cooperatively breeding mammals: a re-appraisal. PeerJ, 8:e9214.



Radchuk V... Thorley J... et al. (2019) Adaptive responses of animals to climate change are most likely insufficient. Nature Communications 10: 3109.     

Dyble M, Thorley J, Page AE, Smith D, & Migliano AB (2019) Engagement in agricultural work is associated with reduced leisure time among Agta hunter-gatherers. Nature Human Behaviour 3: 792-796.  

Thorley J & T Clutton-Brock (2019) A unified-models analysis of the development of sexual size dimorphism in Damaraland mole-rats, Fukomys damarensis. J. Mammalogy  100: 1374-1386.



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



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.



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.



Contact Details


Person keywords: 
quantitative behaviour
Behaviour Change