Research

Superb Fairy-wren (Malurus cyaneus) mother to egg communication, South Australia. Since 2005, Kleindorfer and Colombelli-Négrel have been studying maternal calls by incubating Superb Fairy-wren mothers. New to science, we discovered that mothers vocally tutor their embryos. Incubating females adaptively adjust their incubation calling behaviour, which enhances offspring vocal learning and survival against the brood parasite Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx basalis).

Colombelli-Négrel, D., Hauber, M., Robertson, G., Sulloway, F., Hoi, H., Griggio, M., et al. (2012). Embryonic learning of vocal passwords in superb fairy-wrens reveals intruder cuckoo nestlings. Current Biology 22(22), pp. 2155-2160.

Colombelli-Négrel, D., Hauber, M. and Kleindorfer, S.M. (2014). Prenatal learning in an Australian songbird: habituation and individual discrimination in superb fairy-wren embryos. Proceedings of The Royal Society of London Series B: Biological Sciences 281(1797), pp. 1471-1476.

Collaborators: Prof Mark Hauber, Dr Lyanne Brouwer

Galapagos Islands: Host-parasite biology. Since 2000, Kleindorfer has been Chief Investigator for a long-term study into the fitness costs and evolution of the accidentally introduced parasite Philornis downsi and its Darwin’s finch hosts. Most Darwin’s finch nestlings have died because the parasite eats them alive. As a consequence of extreme host mortality, selection has also been intense on the introduced parasite, which has gotten ~30% smaller.

Kleindorfer, S.M. and Dudaniec, R. (2016). Host-parasite ecology, behavior and genetics: a review of the introduced fly parasite Philornis downsi and its Darwin’s finch hosts. BMC Zoology 1, p. 1.

Common, L.K., O’Connor, J.A, Dudaniec, R.Y, Peters, K.J and Kleindorfer S. (2020). Evidence for rapid downward fecundity selection in an ectoparasite (Philornis downsi) with earlier host mortality in Darwin’s finches. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 33 (4), pp. 524-533. 

Collaborators: Dr Rachael Dudaniec, Dr Jody O’Connor

South Australia: Little penguin decline. Since 2012, Colombelli-Négrel has been Chief Investigator into the factors responsible for the decline of South Australian little penguins. The overall project focuses on three main questions: (1) factors that impact breeding success; (2) factors that impact adults and sub-adults survival; and (3) how distinct the populations are.

Colombelli-Négrel, D., Slender, A., Bradford, T., Bertozzi, T., Graf, S.S. and Gardner, M.G. (2020). Subtle genetic clustering among South Australian colonies of little penguins (Eudyptula minor). Conservation Genetics 21, pp. 747-756.

Colombelli-Négrel, D. (2015). Low survival rather than breeding success explains little penguin population decline on Granite Island. Marine & Fresh Water Research 66(11), pp. 1057-1065.

Collaborators: Dr Ikuko Tomo, Dr Peter Dann

Little Penguin Research

Galapagos Islands: Impacts of rat and cat eradication on Darwin’s Finch and Galapagos Short-eared Owl (Asio flammeus galapagoensis) recovery. In 2021, all rats and feral cats will be eradicated from Floreana Island. Using our baseline data from 2004 to 2020, we will use molecular, behavioural and bioacoustics techniques to monitor gene flow, colonisation and re-establishment of Darwin’s finches after being in safe-holding during the island-wide eradication program. We will measure changes across trophic levels in predator, prey and parasite community structure.

Collaborators: Dr Rachael Dudaniec, Dr Jody O’Connor, Dr Çağlar Akçay

Facial recognition and koala movement. Current methods to track animals mostly involve tagging or collaring, which can be highly invasive and stressful to the individuals. Since 2013, Kleindorfer and Colombelli-Négrel have been collaborating with Dr Jimmy Li and Dr Damian Tohl (from the Video and Image Processing group) and have developed a novel facial recognition software to track movements of wild individuals, which we apply to birds and mammals including koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus).

Collaborators: Prof Chris Daniels, Prof Don Driscoll, Dr Jimmy Li

Koala Research

Fiji woodland bird behaviour. Since 2016, together with Alivereti Naikatini and A/Prof Gunnar Keppel, we have been studying the behavioural biology of the birds of Fiji. This is an exciting project for many reasons – not least because Ernst Mayr was greatly inspired by the birds of Fiji in the 1920s but they remain virtually unstudied to date. (Link to Fiji video)

Collaborators: A/Prof Gunnar Keppel

Greylag Goose (Anser anser). Kleindorfer is studying the vocal ontogeny from egg to adult as well as the function of vocalisation behaviour in Greylag Geese at the Konrad Lorenz Research Centre for Behaviour and Cognition in Grünau in the valley of the Alm, Austria. The descendent geese of Nobel Prize winning Konrad Lorenz live in a free-flying flock of about 150 birds. Well studied for imprinting after hatch, hardly anything is known about their vocal communication, which starts in the egg.