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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). 


Key publications: 

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. doi: 10.1093/jmammal/gyz082

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: 

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 doi: 10.1038/s41562-019-0614-6

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

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

Post-doctoral Research Associate

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Person keywords: 
quantitative behaviour
Behaviour Change