Behavioural Ecology

I started my academic career as a behavioural ecologist, my main interest is in the evolution of communication systems such as are found between males and females during mate choice, between plants and pollinators during pollination and between individuals during aggressive displays. My research has concentrated on the ways in which signals between organisms are kept honest. My earliest work on both the benefits (through mate choice) and the costs of tail ornaments in birds resulted in the first experiments on the aerodynamics of birds’ tails (Evans & Thomas 1992). My group also conducted the first experiments that linked neuro-endocrine hormones to immune function and the traits used in communication. My papers in these areas have achieved the distinction of being the most highly cited papers in both the journals Behavioral Ecology (Norris and Evans 2000) and Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology (Evans et al 2000) and one of the top ten most highly cited papers in Animal Behaviour (Roberts et al 2004).

Behavioural ecology is the study of individual organisms and their relationship with their environment - which can be each other, as well as the abiotic environment. Behavioural ecology is a relatively young discipline - arguably it only started in the 1970s. My work is in the area of mate choice and sexual selection.

I have worked in three main areas:

Swallow signalling, aerodynamics and mate choice

Gene expression in zebra finches

Immune function, signals and hormones

The first work I conducted on animal signalling was for my PhD in which I conducted experiments on the ornaments of scarlet-tufted malachite sunbirds on Mt Kenya. I have subsequently also worked on the orange-breasted sunbird found in South Africa.

© Matthew Evans 2015