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Our research combines studies of behaviour and genomics to understand the genomics of behavioural traits in birds and their importance in reproductive isolation among related species. Our primary study system is tinkerbirds, which are African barbets found in forest and savannah throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.


In our latest publication, we show that song pitch varies at a continental scale in accordance with a classical rule of biogeography, Bergmann's rule. The innate songs of tinkerbirds are negatively associated with body size, which in turn varies because of temperature-driven physiological constraints. We found that tinkerbird songs are lower in frequency at higher latitudes and elevation, in line with the larger body size along latitudinal and elevational gradients. See our paper published in Ecology Letters here:


Red feather colour is associated with a variant  linked to the CYP2J19 gene, implicated in the conversion of yellow dietary carotenoids to red ketocarotenoids. Our study, published in Molecular Ecology, investigated this question across a natural hybrid zone between yellow-fronted and red-fronted tinkerbirds.

Is tinkerbird song innate? Nestlings sing adult-like song! See Lukhele et al. 2022 in Wilson Journal of Ornithology.

© 2022 by Alex Kirschel, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cyprus

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