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Department of Zoology


We are interested in the evolution and ecology of species interactions, particularly parasitism and mutualism. We focus mainly on birds, at long-term study sites in Zambia and Mozambique. Most of our work is inspired by field observations and integrates field experiments with genetics, sensory ecology, and comparative analyses. Claire Spottiswoode is based jointly in the Department of Zoology and at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, where some of our group working on the projects below is based.

Current research topics include:

  • Evolutionary genetics of host egg signatures and their parasitic mimics
  • Mutualism between honeyguides and the human honey-hunters whom they lead to bees’ nests

Key Publications

Jamie, G.A. (2017) Signals, cues and the nature of mimicry. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 284:20162080.
Spottiswoode, C.N., Begg, K.S. & Begg, C.M. (2016) Reciprocal signaling in honeyguide-human mutualism. Science 353: 387-389.
Caves, E.M., Stevens, M., Iversen, E. & Spottiswoode, C.N. (2015) Hosts of brood parasites have evolved egg signatures with elevated information content. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 282: 20150598.
Spottiswoode, C.N., Stryjewski, K.F., Quader, S., Colebrook-Robjent, J.F.R. & Sorenson, M.D. (2011) Ancient host-specificity within a single species of brood parasitic bird. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108, 17738-17742.
Spottiswoode, C.N. & Stevens, M. (2010) Visual modeling shows that avian host parents use multiple visual cues in rejecting parasitic eggs. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 107: 8672-8676.

Full list of publications


Contact Details

Group Leader

Dr Claire Spottiswoode

Department of Zoology
University of Cambridge
Downing St

01223 (7)68946

Group Members