Assistant Professor of Biology Kathleen Lynch has received a grant from Texas EcoLabs for her research titled “Losing the maternal ability: Understanding the evolution of avian brood parasitism.”
There are roughly 10,000 avian species identified to date, and the overwhelming majority of these species exhibit some type of parental care system in which one or both of the parents care for their young to help ensure their success. However, there are roughly 100 species in which neither male nor female care for their young. These species are termed obligate brood parasites – the females lay their eggs in the nests of other species because they have completely lost the ability to construct nests, incubate eggs, and provision their own young.
Dr. Lynch investigates how the brain of these brood parasites evolved from a maternal female to one that neglects her offspring. The lab seeks to identify genomic modifications and the specific brain regions in which these changes occurred.