Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas

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Parental care



We aim here to evaluate the coordination of parental performance of pair members and to relate the coordination to the fitness of the whole family in the little auk. This is a novel perspective to look at male and female parental performance being long viewed through perspective of sexual conflict. The findings will give an insight into evolution of cooperation in bi-parental care systems.

This is newly launched project, just getting financial support from NCN, with the fieldwork starting in summer 2018.

Collaboration with:

Dr hab. Dariusz Jakubas, University of Gdansk, Poland

Dr Dorota Kidawa, University of Gdansk, Poland

Dr Marcelo Araya-Salas, Cornell University, USA



Choosing the right mate is crucial for successful breeding, particularly in monogamous species with long and extensive parental care, and when the breeding pair is presumed to endure for many seasons in succession. We investigated the degree of assortative mating in the Little Auk considering both phenotypic and genotypic traits. Regarding the former, we found evidence of assortative mating with respect to wing length, extent of the white area on the upper eyelid and hormonal stress response. We describe the revealed patterns and discuss their adaptiveness here.  Regarding the birds genotypes, we focused on MHC loci, and this part is now being under thorough analysis.


Dr Szymon Drobniak, Jagiellonian University, Poland

Dr Magdalena-Zagalska Neubauer, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Science, Poland

Dr Jerome Fort, Littoral Environment et Societes, La Rochelle, France
Dr Maria Gavrilo, Marine Biological Institute, Murmansk, Russia
Dr hab. Dariusz Jakubas, University of Gdańsk, Poland

Brain Hoover, Davis University, USA

Dr Sylwia Zieliñska, University of Gdañsk



Corticosterone (CORT) and prolactin (PRL), although believed to be complementary to each other when examining endocrine mechanisms governing parental decisions in birds, are rarely investigated simultaneously. Also, the changes of the hormones across the breeding season is rarely the subject of the study, while being important to understand the parental reproductive allocation.


We consider the hormones levels (baseline, and stress response, i.e. change in the baseline in response to stress)  in regard to the breeding phase. Given various life-history traits of the little auk (different demands at particular reproductive phases and similar brood value across the whole season), we expect significant differences in baseline level of both hormones between the incubation and chick rearing, and similar stress response between the two phases. So-far results are in contradiction with our expectations, however. As such they suggest that incubation period is more stressful than it is commonly assumed and that may be related to the perception of the risk associated with predation pressure. All that together with other studies, show that hormonal profiles are group- and/or species-specific and express adaptation to the local conditions. The manuscript describing these findinds is currently under review.


We also examined CORT and PRL stress response in the little auk to understand mechanisms underlying transition from biparental to male-only care that is observed in this species. It has been postulated that male staing with the offspring could be related to his presumed aptitude for performing the final parental duty, i.e., protection against predators. Being somewhat larger and presumably also more aggressive, male little auk could be more efficient in chick protection than female. If so, he should also be less risk-averse than female and more specifically, should be less sensitive to stressors to ensure his greater commitment while protecting the young against predator. We verified this hypothesis although have not found support for it. You can find detailed results of this part of the project here.




Prof. Dr. Olivier Chastel, Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chize, France

Dr hab. Dariusz Jakubas, University of Gdańsk, Poland




Passerines migration ecology



The Aquatic Warbler is a small, globally-threatened species of sedge meadows in continental Europe that global population declined by 90% during the last century. Basic knowledge about migration ecology and various potential threats are essential for efficient conservation management of the global population.

We examine autumn migration of the Aquatic Warbler in regard to sex and age, across a wide geographical range. We also determine concetration of common pollutants (e.g. mercury, Hg) in the birds feathers.

See papers describing all these results: 1, 2, 3, 4

See a short summary of so far results here

Cooperate in the project:

Julio M. Neto, Universidade do Porto, Portugal

Carlos Zumalacárregui MartíneFundacion  Global Nature, Spain

David Miguélez, University of León, Spain

Frederic Jiguet, National Museum of Natural History, Paris, France

Jullien Foucher, ACROLA, France

Hubert Dugue, ACROLA, France

Joanna Dziarska-Palac, ACROLA, France

Małgorzata Chrostek, University of Gdańsk, Gdańsk, Poland

Aneta Pacyna, Technical University of Gdansk

Zaneta Polkowska, Technical University of Gdansk