Langmore Group - Avian evolutionary and behavioural ecology

We study many aspects of evolutionary and behavioural ecology in birds, with particular emphasis on co-evolution between brood parasites and their hosts, signalling (songs, calls and displays), mimicry and crypsis, breeding systems, and evolutionary responses to climate change. Our main approach is to use field experiments and observations to test evolutionary theory.

Selected publications

  • Langmore, NE, Hunt, S & Kilner, RM (2003) Escalation of a coevolutionary arms race through host rejection of brood parasitic young. Nature, 422, 157-160.
  • Russell AF, Langmore NE, Cockburn A, Astheimer LB, Kilner RM. (2007). Reduced egg investment can conceal helper effects in cooperatively breeding birds. Science 317: 941-944.
  • Langmore, N.E., Maurer, G., Adcock, G.J., Kilner, R.M. (2008). Socially acquired host-specific mimicry and the evolution of host races in Horsfield's bronze-cuckoo Chalcites basalisEvolution 62: 1689-1699.
  • Heinsohn, R., Langmore, N. E., Cockburn, A., Kokko, H. (2011) Adaptive sex ratio adjustments via sex-specific infanticide in a bird. Current Biology, 21: 1744-1747.
  • Kilner R. M. and Langmore, N. E. (2011) Cuckoos versus hosts in insects and birds: adaptations, counter-adaptations and outcomes. Biological Reviews, 86: 836-852
  • Langmore, N. E., Stevens, M., Maurer, G., Heinsohn, R., Hall, M. L., Peters, A., Kilner, R. M. (2011). Visual mimicry of host nestlings by cuckoos. Proceedings of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences 278: 2455-2463
  • Feeney, W, Medina, I, Somveille, M, Heinsohn, R, Hall, ML, Mulder, RA, Stein, JA, Kilner, RM, Langmore, NE (2013) Brood parasitism and the evolution of cooperative breeding in birds. Science 342: 1506-1508
  • Odom, KJ, Hall, ML, Riebel, K, Omland, KE, Langmore, NE (2014) Female song is common and ancestral in songbirds. Nature Communications, Published online 2014/03/04/online, Vol 5 article 3379.
  • Heinsohn, R., Zdenek, C. N., Cunningham, R. B., Endler, J., Langmore, N. E. (2017) Tool-assisted drumming in a wild bird population. Science Advances, 3 (6): e1602399
  • Riebel, K, Odom, KJ, Langmore, NE, Hall, ML. (2019) New insights from female bird song: towards an integrated approach to studying male and female communication roles. Biology Letters: 20190059
  • Crates, R, Langmore, NE, Ranjard, L, Stojanovic, D, Rayner, L, Ingwersen, D, Heinsohn, R. (2021) Loss of vocal culture has fitness consts in a critically endangered songbird. Proc. R. Soc. B. 288: 20210225.
  • Langmore, NE, Grealy, A, Noh, H-J, Medina, I, Skeels, A, Grant, J, Murray, KD, Kilner, RM, Holleley, CE (2024) Coevolution with hosts underpins speciation in brood-parasitic cuckoos. Science 384: 1030-1036

All publications

What’s that in my nest? How the evolutionary arms race between cuckoos and hosts creates new species

Story | Friday 31 May 2024
In new research published in Science, biologists show how coevolution drives the creation of new species of cuckoos.

Move over magpies: are cuckoos the meanest bird?

Story | Monday 13 September 2021
Since it’s Bad Bird Season, we ask cuckoo apologist - sorry, cuckoo expert - Professor Naomi Langmore to explain how it could possibly be that the cuckoo doesn’t mean to be mean, when it sure looks like it does.

Only the lonely: an endangered bird is forgetting its song as the species dies out

Story | Thursday 18 March 2021
In healthy populations, the song of regent honeyeaters is complex and long. But where the population is very small, the song is sadly diminished.
A helping hand for the forty-spotted pardalote

Researchers help endangered birds beat deadly parasite

Story | Wednesday 12 August 2020
Researchers have found a way to help one of Australia’s rarest birds ‘self-fumigate’ their nests, to protect their young from parasites.
Female superb fairy-wren. Photo Andrew Haysom

Wait - We're sexist towards birds now?

Story | Tuesday 1 October 2019
Five years ago, an ANU biologist proved that most female songbirds sing, but it’s a finding that many people are struggling to accept.

Study reveals how a mother always knows her chicks

Story | Thursday 7 June 2018
A study led by ANU has discovered how a mother knows her chicks and can spot an imposter in her nest, even if it looks almost identical to her own chicks.

ARC grant success

Story | Friday 10 November 2017
The Australian National University (ANU) has won $24 million in Australian Research Council (ARC) funding for 58 research projects across the University. 

Fairy wrens vary egg size to increase survival rates

Story | Thursday 1 December 2016
The female Superb Fairy-Wren has the ability to change the size of the eggs it lays, a biological feat which could buffer against the effects of climate change.

Cotton wool could save the endangered forty-spotted pardalote

Story | Tuesday 1 September 2015
Amanda Edworthy is trialling a novel method of controlling the fly larvae in a bid to save the extremely rare 40-spotted pardalote..

A cuckoo finch in sheep's clothing

Story | Thursday 11 June 2015


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