Acoustic communication

Monica Padilla and Tom Reader, in collaboration with former group member Alan McElligott, studies accoustric communication in cattle, with a particular focus on individual recognition. Tom Reader is also interested in the effects of interspecific interactions on intraspecific variation in sexual signals.

Individual recognition in cattle - Tom Reader and Monica Padilla

We study mother-offspring vocal communication in ungulates, using cattle as a model species. Our colleague Alan McElligott's work suggests that mother-offspring vocal recognition in ungulates differs depending on whether species are hiders or followers. In fallow deer (a hider species), adult female contact calls are individually distinctive and the calls of fawns are not distinctive. Alan showed experimentally that mothers do not recognise the calls of their own fawns, whereas fawns recognise their mothers. Research on sheep (a follower species) showed that both adult ewes and lambs had individually distinctive calls and vocal recognition was mutual.  We are continuing this research by studying cattle, a follower species in which we predict mutual recognition between mother and calf. Read more about Alan's fallow deer research here.

Interspecific interactions and insect song - Tom Reader

Sex-specific signals can play an important role in both species recognition and mate choice. We are interested in the impact of interactions between closely related species on the nature and reliability of these signals. Specifically, Tom Reader's current project seeks to discover if the benefits of kleptoparsitism by the phytophagous fly Lipara rufitarsis are outweighed by the costs associated with changes in male vibratory signals.

Photo: A scanning electron micrograph of the ventral part of the thorax in Lipara rufitarsis. Highlighted in green is a (putative) sensory bristle used for receiving vibratory signals from conspecifics. 

Thanks to Jo Surgey for this image.