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  • What kind of parents are shorebirds?

    In his new research, Tamás Székely, the acknowledged ethologist of the University of Debrecen, examines the ecological, demographic and genetic characteristics of the reproduction of plavors, redshanks and other related species.

    - Successful reproduction, the chance of survival of specimens until they can reproduce, the number of viable specimens per age group and the chance of survival between two age groups – these are all highly important aspects in biology when it comes to assessing a species from an evolutionary point of view. These aspects are significantly affected by the way of choosing a partner, searching for a partner and caring habits of a population – explains Tamás Székely ethologist, professor of the Department of Evolutionary Zoology and Human Biology of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology of the UD.

    Tamás Székely started to deal with behavioural ecology at the end of the 80s influenced by professor Zoltán Varga and ecologist Csaba Aradi. Since that time he has been observing the social life of birds, their habits in choosing partners and in caring about offspring, and the evolution of sexual roles. Since 2000 he has also been a researcher professor at Bath University (UK). In his study published in Nature magazine, he discussed the correlations among choosing partners, sex ratio and life expectancy in various classes of mammals.

    - While among mammals females are in majority with a higher life expectancy, the situation is the opposite among birds. However, among shorebirds it varies by populations. It has genetic reasons. In the new research programme we search for answers using cutting edge genetic NGS (next generation sequencing) methods, with the involvement of immunologists and bacteriologist to find out why males or females die more frequently in different populations – explains Tamás Székely.

    Photo: Csaba Daróczy

    The new research of the behavioural ecologist, along with other 11 Hungarian research programmes and as the only research programme based in Debrecen, is supported by the "Élvonal" research excellence programme of the National Research, Development and Innovation Office, which supports high profile, trend-setting programmes.

    In the framework of the project prof. Zoltán Barta, head of the Department of Evolutionary Zoology and Human Biology of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Technology of the UD and András Kosztolányi, associate professor of the University of Veterinary Sciences work on establishing an international research network. The researchers involved will study the characteristics of the reproduction of plavors, redshanks and other related species in 15 countries from Madagascar to China and Siberia.

    Besides being highly important from the perspective of evolutionary biology, the research may also greatly contribute to the preservation of endangered species and the success of related nature conservation programmes.

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