Department of Biological Sciences
I investigate the behavioural ecology of birds within a broader evolutionary framework. I am particularly interested in understanding how reproductive behaviour affects the speciation process.
Speciation, polymorphism and sexual selection in the Australian grass finches
The finches of Australia are a fantastic group for research because they can be readily studied in the wild and captivity. The zebra finch is the second most widely used bird in biology and it’s amenability as a study system in captivity is very well known with dozens of research groups in Europe and North America currently focused on this species (Griffith & Buchanan 2010). In our ongoing study population in the arid zone of NSW, we are studying a variety of questions relating to reproductive ecology of this iconic species in an evolutionary appropriate context (e.g. Tschirren et al. 2009).
The Gouldian finch is a genetically polymorphic species providing great insight into the speciation process. The incompatibility between the two most common morphs (Pryke & Griffith 2009a), suggests a degree of divergence between them that is currently driving relatively strong selection for female behaviour and physiology. For example, we have recently demonstrated very strong and adaptive biased sex allocation and differential reproductive investment (Pryke & Griffith 2009b), and female polyandry and cryptic female choice (Pryke et al. 2010). The nature of the polymorphism in the Gouldian finch makes this an excellent model system to illuminate phenomena that are likely to occur to a more subtle extent in other avian species.
Sociality and cooperative breeding
Australia is home to a disproportionate number of bird species that bred cooperatively, where parents get help to rear their offspring from non-breeding adults. We are studying the apostlebird and the chestnut-crowned babbler in the NSW arid zone. Both of these species form large social groups and in the babbler as many as 15 helpers can attend one nest. We are trying to understand the evolution of such extreme levels of cooperation between individuals through close behavioural studies of individually marked populations, and will use a variety of observational and experimental techniques in the field and molecular lab to investigate a range of areas such as parental care, anti-predation behaviour, and genetic relatedness and communication within and between groups.
Recent publications (full publication list on personal webpage)
Griffith SC, Pryke SR, Buttemer WA (2011) Constrained mate choice in social monogamy and the stress of having an unattractive partner. Proceedings of the Royal Society, London, Series B, 278, 2798-2805.
Griffith SC, Pariser EC, Tschirren B & Astheimer LB (2011) Resource allocation across the laying sequence in the wild zebra finch. Journal of Avian Biology, 42, 480-484.
Parker TH, Wilkin TA, Barr IR, Sheldon BC, Rowe L, Griffith SC (2011) Fecundity selection on ornamental plumage colour differs between ages and sexes and varies over small spatial scales. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 24, 1584-1597.
Brazill-Boast J, van Rooij EP, Pryke SR, Griffith SC (2011) Interference from long-tailed finches constrains reproduction in the endangered Gouldian finch. Journal of Animal Ecology, 80, 39-48.
Pryke SR, Rollins LA, Griffith SC (2010) Females use multiple mating and genetically loaded sperm competition to target compatible genes. Science, 329, 964-967.
Griffith SC & Buchanan K (2010) The zebra finch: the ultimate Australian supermodel. Emu, 110, v-xii.
Griffith SC & Buchanan K (2010) Maternal effects in the zebra finch: a model mother reviewed. Emu, 110, 251-267.
Mainwaring, MC, Hartley, IR, Gilby, AJ & Griffith SC (2010) Hatching asynchrony and growth trade-offs within domesticated and wild zebra finch. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 100, 763-773.
Immler S, Pryke SR, Birkhead TR & Griffith SC (2010) Pronounced within-individual plasticity in sperm morphometry across social environments. Evolution, 64, 1634-1643.
Griffith SC (2010) The role of multiple mating and extra-pair paternity in creating and reinforcing boundaries between species in birds. Emu, 110, 1-9.
Pryke SR & Griffith SC (2010) Maternal adjustment of parental effort in relation to mate compatibility affects offspring fitness. Behavioral Ecology, 21, 226-232.
Pariser EC, Mariette MM & Griffith SC (2010) Artificial ornaments manipulate intrinsic male quality in wild-caught zebra finches (Taeniopygia guttata). Behavioral Ecology, 21, 264-269.
Griffith SC, Holleley CE, Mariette MM, Pryke SR & Svedin N (2010) Low level of extrapair parentage in wild zebra finches. Animal Behaviour, 79, 261-264.
Pryke SR & Griffith SC (2009) Socially mediated trade-offs between agression and parental effort in competing color morphs. The American Naturalist, 174, 455-464.
Griffith SC & Immler S (2009) Female infidelity and genetic compatibility in birds: the role of the genetically loaded raffle in understanding the function of extrapair paternity. Journal of Avian Biology, 40, 97-101.
Pryke SR & Griffith SC (2009b) Genetic incompatibility drives sex allocation and maternal investment in a polymorphic finch. Science, 323, 1605-1607.
Ockendon N, Burke T & Griffith SC (2009) Experimental introduction onto an island fails to support the genetic diversity hypothesis of extrapair paternity. Behavioral Ecology, 20, 305-312.
Pryke SR & Griffith SC (2009a) Postzygotic genetic incompatibility between sympatric color morphs. Evolution, 63, 793-798.
Tschirren B, Rutstein AN, Postma E, Mariette M & Griffith SC (2009) Short- and long-term consequences of early developmental conditions: a case study on wild and domesticated zebra finches. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 22, 387-395.
Pryke SR, Astheimer LB, Buttemer WA & Griffith SC (2007) Frequency-dependent physiological trade-offs between competing colour morphs. Biology Letters, 3, 494-497.
Rutstein AN, Brazil-Boast J, Griffith SC (2007) Evaluating mate choice in the zebra finch. Animal Behaviour, 74, 1277-1284.
Griffith SC (2007) The evolution of infidelity in socially monogamous passerines: neglected components of direct and indirect selection. The American Naturalist, 169, 274-281.
Griffith SC, Parker TH, Olson VA (2006) Melanin- versus carotenoid-based sexual signals: is the difference really so black and red? Animal Behaviour, 71, 749-763.
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