MASTER'S THESIS PROJECT

Begging and food sharing behaviours in Asian-small clawed otters 

MSc Evolutionary & Behavioural Ecology | University of Exeter

 

Open Access PeerJ: Bowden-Parry M, Postma E, Boogert NJ. 2020. Effects of food type and abundance on begging and sharing in Asian small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinereus) PeerJ 8:e10369 https://doi.org/10.7717/peerj.10369

Begging is a common behaviour across taxa, of which has received much attention in a parent-offspring context. Both theoretical models and empirical evidence support various explanations for how this behaviour evolved and specifically in young birds, many support the honest signal of hunger and the sibling scramble hypothesis. However, on a behavoural mechanistic level, begging can be a form of harassment.

 

Food sharing is widespread in the animal kingdom and commonly observed  between kin. However, it is also common amongst non-kin and there are various suggestions for alternative explanations that do not rely on inclusive fitness benefits. At a mechanistic level, food sharing can be motivated by harassment avoidance.

Irrespective of its function, begging and the resultant food sharing can vary considerably between age, species and context. And, factors such as food availability and type may influence this variation.

 

My thesis explored begging and food sharing in a group-living captive species of otter, Asian small-clawed otters. We explored whether 1) variation in begging and food sharing frequencies were correlated (to test for harassment avoidance), 2) some of the variation of begging and sharing frequencies were correlated with food type and abundance and 3) if otter age-classes differed in the foraging efficiency and begging and food sharing frequencies.

PAST PROJECTS

Acoustic and behavioural development of alliance behaviours in Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins, Dolphin Alliance Project (DAP)

Research Assistant | Dr. Stephanie King's PhD Student Kathryn Holmes

KING LAB website: https://slkinggroup.weebly.com/people.html 

Kathryn's PhD investigates the ontogeny of alliance behaviours in juvenile male bottlenose dolphins, with special focus on vocal and physical behaviours that formulate and mediate social bonds between individuals.

 

Here, I spent three months mostly collecting offshore data using an array of research methodologies. These included, detailed systematic behavioural observation (inclu. focal follows), photo-id and preparation, deployment and use of PAM equipment.

My position also involved data entry, management, processing and analysis. This included survey input into the DAP database, processing unknown individuals, inputting focal follow data to Excel and analyzing acoustic data on Adobe Audition.

Marine Mammal Monitoring with Tethys Research Institute

Research Assistant | Ionian Dolphin Project

https://www.ioniandolphinproject.org/

The Ionian Dolphin Project is a marine mammal research and conservation non-profit in the Eastern Ionian Sea, with two main study sites: Inner Ionian Sea Archipelago and Gulf of Ambracia.

As a RA, my main duties included offshore data collection; boat surveys and photo-id, to contribute to the long-term monitoring of population trends and habitat-use of Bottlenose and Common Dolphins.

This role also included data entry, processing and analysis; fin-id using DARWIN.

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