Call for collaboration | ÉLVONAL Shorebird Science

News authored by Tamás Székely and Vojtěch Kubelka:

Sex role evolution: testing the impacts of ecology, demography and genes

Sex roles (i.e., courtship, competition for mates, pair bonding and parenting) are among the most diverse social behaviour. Recent research is uncovering key elements of sex role variation, but significant gaps remain. Appropriate sexual behaviour is essential for reproduction, and thus understanding the causes and implications of sex roles are at the core of evolutionary biology and fundamental for the study of life history evolution, physiology and population biology. Understanding sex roles is also important for biodiversity conservation since disruptions to normal sexual behaviour due to environmental changes reduce the viability of wild populations.

Our team has been recently awarded an ÉLVONAL project of Hungarian Science Foundation to investigate sex role evolution in shorebirds (plovers, sandpipers and allies). The project is based at University of Debrecen (Hungary), and is carried out between 2018 and 2022. Shorebirds exhibit an unusual diversity of sex role variation, and they have provided some of the textbook examples of mating behaviour, parenting and breeding systems. Provisional results suggest that some of this variation is related to adult sex ratios, i.e. the ratios of adult males to adult females in the local population. To achieve the objectives of this ambitious project, we are seeking collaborators willing to study behaviour, ecology and/or demography of any breeding shorebird population on the planet. To progress, we have developed a data collection protocol that explains field methodology to gather the information we are seeing in this project. We hope the ÉLVONAL project will lead to joint research publications, and in addition, to exchange of ideas, discussions and follow-up research. We also anticipate that our project will have a significant training and capacity building components and will impact on biodiversity conservation for the benefits of shorebirds and people worldwide.

Male of Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) in full breeding plumage ready for mating at a breeding ground in United Arabic Emirates. ©Vojtěch Kubelka.


Featured image: Five shorebird species at a beach in Florida, do you recognize them all? Photo: Vojtěch Kubelka.