Parental coordination

INTRO: Contribution of avian male and female into parental care has been a hot topic in behavioural and evolutionary ecology for a long time. However, majority of studies have been considered the issue from the perspective of sexual conflict. The possibility of parents cooperation has been clearly neglected, while cooperation between the partners resulting in higher survival of the offspring and breeding adults might be favoured by the selection. In this project we consider male and female parental care in the context of parents cooperation, using the little auk (Alle alle) as a model species - a seabird with typical traits of long-life history species (long-lived, long-term pair bonds, long and extensive bi-parental care). This is a big, mother-project with three offspring (tabsets), and also numerous siblings (separate dashboards).

The principal aim of the project is to examine whaether little auk parents do cooperate and if they do so, what are the mechanisms of this cooperation. For that, we focus on coordination of parental performance between the breeding partners (Wojczulanis-Jakubas et al. 2018).

We examine the coordination level of the parental performance:

  • across various contexts: breeding stages - incubation/chick rearing and environmental conditions (Grissot et al. 2019) , as well as in respect to the effect on parents/offspring fitness, the son-project: ECCO

  • in respect to pair intrinsic and extrinsic characteristics (e.g. partners assortativity in morphology, physiology , behaviour , including personality, pair-bond, pair-age, vocalization and genetics; dauther-projects: VOCALLE and PERSVOC.

To collect data, we video- and audio- record birds behaviour and vocalization. We also collect from birds various samples (e.g. blood for hormones) and measurments, and deploy them with instruments, such as GPS-loggers, geolocators, accelerometers.

Project funded by NCN, OPUS13, #2017/25/B/NZ8/01417. Polish summary


INTRO: This is the prime offspring of the mother project, and also the core of Antoine's Grissot PhD project. We aim here to evaluate the coordination level of the parental performance across various contexts (various environmental conditions, breeding stages, and in respect to intrinsic pair characterisitc), and examine relationships between the level of coordination and the parents fitness.


To collect relevant data, we perform the fieldwork in the little auk colony in Hornsund, Spitsbergen. To examine level of coordination in parental performance we record the birds behaviour and colony attendance pattern during the whole breeding season (mating, incubation, chick rearing), using an automated system of audio and video recorders. Recently, we also deployed GLS-system which resulted in a separate, now step-dauther project (See below), the main point of master thesis of Clara Borell.

To examine the parental coordination across the various environmental conditions we take advantage of long-term (i.e inter-annual environmental variation in the study place) and wide-range field work (i.e. environmental inter-colony variation) being carried out by our research team. Some results of that investigation, being one of Antoine's Grissot PhD chapter, have been already published (XXX). Other aspects, like environmental effect on coordination and brood desertion in the little auk female are currently under the analysis.

For considering the pair intrinsic features, which is a main topic of master thesis of Emilia Zalewska and Lauraleen Atlmeyer, for each partner we measure:

  • various morphological paramters (standard measurments, area of the white spots on birds plumage),
  • various physiological parameters (hormones: corticosterone, prolactin),
  • behavioral profile (stress response, overal activity level, frequency of social interactions)
  • strength of pair-bond (using the marital history of the pair, frequency of within-pair affiliative behaviors, coordination of the vocal display - related to VOCALLE, etc).

To estiamte the effect of coordination on parents fitness, we examine: * the history of breeding success,
* effect of pair marital status,
* chick's growth rate * chick's overall body condition (hematological parameters, corticosterone concentraion)

We analyze the collected data using modern statistical approach (Monte Carlo simulations and modelling).


Antoine Ecco - Laureleen GLS - Clara

GLS-deployed individual

PEOPLE: Antoine Grissot (PhD project, principal investiga) (principal investicator) UG; Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas (supervisor) UG; Marcelo Araya-Salas (co-worker, co-supervisor) UC; Dorota Kidawa (co-worker, co-supervisor) UG; UG; Anna Osiecka (co-worker) UG; Emilia Zalewska (co-worker) UG.


INTRO: Vocal displays between breeding partners may have implication by intervening in pair bond, coordination or even manipulation of the partner in parental investment. In this project, we aim to examine in detail vocal display between the breeding partners and its role in pair formation and maintenance in a small seabird, the little auk (ALle alle). Seabirds, despite being quite vociferous, are very much underrepresented group in respect to studies on vocal display, while given their other life-time hisstory attributes (social and genetic monogamy with long-term pair bonds, and long and extensive bi-parental care), they are important model species.

Specifically, we want to examine:

  1. the variability in the vocal display within and between pairs, and the similarity in the vocal signaling between partners,

  2. mechanisms behind partners vocal similarity - does it result from an assortative mating and/or a vocal partners adjustment? (linked with PERSVOC),

  3. the relationship between vocal display (various parameters considered) and pair further parental performance (parents' coordination in the incubation and chick rearing activities; linked with ECOORD).

METHODS:To collect the material, we mark and measure birds during their breeding season, then we video- and audio- record their behaviour and vocalization. To further proces the video and audio material, we use various softwares (BORIS and Cowlog for videos, and Raven, R, with awesome warbleR package for audios). Then, we analyse the data using relevant randomization procedures and/or modelling approach.

Figure 1. An example of acoustic signals of the displaying partners highlighted in colours.

Project funded by NCN, PRELUDIUM18, #2019/35/N/NZ8/02298 Polish summary

PEOPLE: Marion Devogel (principal investicator) UG; Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas (supervisor) UG; Marcelo Araya-Salas (co-worker, co-supervisor) UC; Dorota Kidawa (co-worker, co-supervisor) UG; Antoine Grissot (part of the PhD project, co-worker) UG; Anna Osiecka (co-worker) UG; Emilia Zalewska (co-worker) UG.


Animal personality affects various aspects of an individual's life, e.g. partner choice, stress-response or foraging. Different personality types may respond to environmental changes differently; how the whole population copes in the changing environment may thus depend on the frequency of behavioural phenotypes. In this project, we use behavioural information on individual birds to examine the influence of personality traits on vocal and nesting behaviour in the little auk (linked to ECOORD and VOCALLE), and investigate how these different behavioural phenotypes may respond to ecological disturbances in the changing climate.

To do so, we combine non-invasive behavioural experiments in the wild with passive observations (control), integrating bioacoustics, ethology, ecology and statistical modelling.

PEOPLE: Anna Osiecka (principal investicator, PhD project) UG; Katarzyna Wojczulanis-Jakubas (supervisor) UG; Elodie Mandel-Briefer (supervisor) UC; Marion Devogel (co-worker) UG; Dorota Kidawa (co-worker) UG; Antoine Grissot (co-worker) UG.