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Behavioural Ecology

A howler monkey in a tree

The Behavioural Ecology Research Group was established in 2017, following our strategic growth in behavioural ecology research.

Behavioural ecology can be broadly thought of as the study of adaptations; it is the study of animal behaviour in an evolutionary context.

Core areas of research in the Behavioural Ecology Research Group currently include animal communication, cognition, social behaviour, and animal welfare. We cover a wide range of study organisms, including mammals, birds, insects, crustaceans, fish and cephalopods. Our research involves fieldwork in South America, the Antarctic and the Arctic, Tanzania, Mexico, Australia, Japan, Austria, Spain, Portugal and the UK. We also carry out work in museums, zoos, and laboratories.

Members of our group include academics, postgraduate researchers and professional staff. We are an active research community with recent achievements that include papers in Science, Plos Biology, Current Biology, Ecology Letters, Nature Communications, Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology, Behavioural Ecology and Biology Letters, as well as funding from the Royal Society and National Geographic.

We welcome collaboration and enquiries from potential incoming visitors and fellows, e.g. under the Newton International Fellowship or Marie Sklodowska-Curie European programme.

We offer a Biology MPhil and Biology PhD, and a range of innovative research project opportunities for postgraduate researchers.

If you would like to find out more about our research, please contact Dr Jacob Dunn, Director of the Behavioural Ecology Research Group, at [email protected]


Find out more about our members by exploring their staff profiles.

Academic staff

Postdoctoral researchers

  • Dr Katarzyna Mikolajczak
  • Dr Stephen Lang

PhD researchers

Technical staff

  • Julia Mackenzie
  • Jackie Bodimead

Associated members


New collaboration with Hydrophis Gas for biomimicry research work £350,000

New publication in PLOS Biology investigates the rapid evolution of the primate larynx

PhD student wins $4,500 for research into the effects of human noise on captive tamarin welfare

Grant and project successes for Dr Camilla Hinde, Dr Jacob Dunn and Dr Tom O'Mahoney

Funding grant for Biology

Royal Society award £20K research grant into the evolution of vocal communication

Delegation from the Konrad Lorenz Research Station visits our University

Social relationships of greylag geese


See individual profiles for a full list of publications by each group member.

Bowling, D. L.*, Dunn, J. C.*, Smaers, J., Garcia, M., Kerney, M., Stewart, A., Hanke, G., Kitchener, A., Handschuhe., S., Dengg, S., Gumpenberger, M. & Fitch, W. T. S., 2020. Rapid evolution of the primate larynx. PLOS Biology. * equal contributions

Morrison, M., Dunn, J. C., Illera, G., Walsh, P., Bermejo, M., 2020. Western gorilla space use suggests territoriality. Nature Scientific Reports, 10, p. 3692.

Zandberg, L., Hinde, C. A. & van Oers, K., 2020. Measuring mate preferences: Absolute and comparative evaluation of potential partners. Animal Behaviour, 167, pp. 65–76. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2020.06.019

Halsey, L. G., Wascher, C. A.,, Careau, V. et al., 2019. Flexibility, variability and constraint in energy management patterns across vertebrate taxa revealed by long-term heart rate measurements. Functional Ecology, 33, pp. 260–272.

Garcia, M.*, Dunn, J. C.*, 2019. No evidence that maximum fundamental frequency reflects selection for signal diminution in bonobos. Current Biology, 29, pp. 732-733. *equal contributions

Mowles, S. L., Jennions, M. D. & Backwell, P. R. Y., 2018. Robotic crabs reveal that female fiddler crabs are sensitive to changes in male display rate. Biology Letters, 14(1).

Wascher, C. A. F., Kotrschal, K., and Arnold, A., 2018. Free-living greylag geese adjust their heart rates and body core temperatures to season and reproductive context. Nature Scientific Reports, 8(1).

Zandberg, L., Gort, G., van Oers, K. & Hinde, C. A., 2017. Direct fitness benefits explain mate preference, but not choice, for similarity in heterozygosity levels. Ecology Letters, 20, pp. 1306–1314.

Bowling, D. L., Garcia, M., Dunn, J. C., Ruprecht, R., Stewart, A., Frommolt, K. H. and Fitch, W. T., 2017. Body size and vocalization in primates and carnivores. Nature Scientific Reports, 7.

Casewell, N. R., Visser, J. C., Baumann, K., Dobson, J., Han, H., Kuruppu, S., Morgan, M., Romilio, A., Weisbecker, V., Ali, S. A., Debono, J., Koludarov, I., Que, I., Bird, G .C., Cooke, G. M., et al., 2017. The Evolution of Fangs, Venom, and Mimicry Systems in Blenny Fishes. Current Biology, 8(27), pp. 1184-1191.

Garcia, M., Herbst, C. T., Bowling, D .L., Dunn, J. C. & Fitch, W. T., 2017. Acoustic allometry revisited: morphological determinants of fundamental frequency in primate vocal production. Nature Scientific Reports, 1(7).

Caro, S. M., Griffin, A. S., Hinde, C. A. & West, S. A., 2016. Unpredictable environments lead to the evolution of parental neglect in birds. Nature Communications, 7.

Laine, V. N. et al., 2016. Evolutionary signals of selection on cognition from the great tit genome and methylome. Nature Communications, 7, pp. 1–9.

Grabowska-Zhang, A. M., Hinde, C. A., Garroway, C. J. & Sheldon, B. C., 2016. Wherever I may roam: Social viscosity and kin affiliation in a wild population despite natal dispersal. Behavioural Ecology, 27, pp. 1263–1268.

Dunn, J .C., Halenar, L., Davies, T., Cristóbal-Azkarate, J., Fitch, T., Knapp, L., 2015. Evolutionary trade-off between vocal tract and testes dimensions in howler monkeys. Current Biology, 25, pp. 2839-2844.

Fawcett, T. W. & Mowles, S. L., 2013. Assessments of fighting ability need not be cognitively complex. Animal Behaviour, 86, pp. 1–7.

Mowles, S. L. & Ord, T. J., 2012. Repetitive signals and mate choice: Insights from contest theory. Animal Behaviour, 84, pp. 295–304.

Dufour, V., Wascher, C. A. F., Braun, A., Miller, R. & Bugnyar, T., 2012. Corvids can decide if a future exchange is worth waiting for. Biology Letters, 8, pp. 201–204.

Hinde, C. A., Johnstone, R. A. & Kilner, R. M., 2010. Parent-offspring conflict and coadaptation. Science, 327, pp. 1373–1376.

Wascher, C. A. F., Scheiber, I. B. R. & Kotrschal, K., 2008. Heart rate modulation in bystanding geese watching social and non-social events. Proceedings of the Royal Society. B., 275, pp. 1653–1659.