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Dr Claire Spottiswoode

Dr Claire Spottiswoode

The Genetics of Egg Mimicry: a Century-Old Evolutionary Puzzle
Dr Claire Spottiswoode is a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellow at the Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge.
Dr Claire Spottiswoode is interested in the genetic underpinnings of coevolution, the process by which two or more species reciprocally influence one another’s evolution. She studies brood parasitic birds, such as cuckoos, which are cheats that lay their eggs in other birds' nests. Cuckoos and other brood parasites lay eggs that beautifully mimic those of their chosen host, to trick host parents into accepting the parasitic egg as one of their own. This research project will attempt to solve a century-old evolutionary puzzle: how do individual females of the same brood parasitic species lay eggs that mimic those of their specialist host, despite interbreeding with males raised by other hosts? She hopes to locate the genes involved in mimicry of different host species, by exploiting powerful new genomic methods in combination with breeding experiments on captive Cuckoo Finches that she studies in Zambia. Dr Spottiswoode will use her Fellowship to support her research in many practical ways, from buying essential materials needed on her Zambian research camp and employing local skilled field assistants as well as visiting an important collaborator to gain essential knowledge on high-throughput DNA sequencing and transcriptomics to take back to her project.

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