People have been fascinated by the ability of cuckoos to mimic the egg patterning of their hosts for centuries. I am interested in what makes the embryo developing inside the cuckoo egg so special. Upon hatching, the recently hatched cuckoo chick begins to evict the eggs and chicks of the host species, showing incredible strength for an altricial chick.
I’m just embarking on a project that aims to investigate the physiology, energetics and morphology of cuckoo embryonic development, particularly in comparison to their hosts. More to follow! Much of this project will involve fieldwork in Panama, Czech Republic, Australia and the USA, and involves an international team of cuckoo experts and muscle and bone specialists (see collaborators under the People tab).
Eggshell Physiology and Surface Structure
I’m interested in how the eggshells of different species are adapted to their specific nest environment, both in structure, colour and physiology. Through collaboration (see below) I have been able to work with museum specimens to investigate broad scale patterns in eggshell physiology, particularly focusing on species which breed in ‘extreme’ environments. Microscopy work has revealed how nano-structures can work to assist in gas exchange, in Guillemots for example, and how such structures can keep the eggshell surface clean.
School of Biological Sciences, Bourne Laboratories,
Royal Holloway, University of London,
Egham, Surrey, Tw20 0EX, UK