Jesús Martínez-Padilla - Behavioural and evolutionary ecologist

Common kestrel

Falco tinnunculus

Red grouse

Lagopus lagopus scoticus

Pied flycatcher

Ficedula hypoleuca

Cowpea seed beetle

Callosobruchus maculatus

Other et al.

Common kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

 

Common kestrels are medium-sized falcon that inhabits in a wide variety of habitats. They are migrant in northern latitudes in Europe and make small movements in winter in southern latitudes, where snow cover is not permanent throughout winter. You can find more details about the species here (in Spanish) and here (in English).

 

Since 1994, we have monitored a population of Common kestrels breeding in nest-boxes we put up in a grassland and treeless area, Campo Azálvaro. This area is mainly used for livestock grazing and their main prey, common voles (Microtus arvalis) is, although fluctuating, abundant. However, there are other species that kestrels prey on, like lizards (Lacerta lepida, Lacerta schereiberii or Psamodromus spnaicus), skylarks (Alauda arvensis) or cricket moles (Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa). Dr. Juan A. Fargallo has been the researcher in charge since the begging of the monitoring, although with small gaps where I or Dr. Pablo Vergara were leading the population monitoring.

 

Several subjects have been the study focus of the population, like predator-prey relationships, the behavioural meaning of melanin-pigmented traits in adults and nestlings, maternal effects or sibling competition. Lately, we are taking advantage of the long-term and individual based monitoring of the population to study and understand the evolutionary potential of some behavioural traits that were focus of previous studies.

 

Most of the study on kestrels have been carried out in Campo Azálvaro, a grassland and treeless area where we put "some" nest-boxes up to facilitate their breeding. There are a varying number of breeding kestrels in the area, but a constant number of 25-30 pairs usually attempt to breed there. You can find some examples of our work with kestrels in several publications [8, 18, 29, 39].

Red Grouse (Lagopus lagopus scoticus)

 

Red grouse are teatronid game species that inhabit in the heather moorlands in Scotland, northern England and very few in northern Ireland. Their populations are characterised by cyclic variation of their population numbers what has attracted the attention of researchers and hunters for the last 60 years. Several hypothesis have been put forward to explain this variation. At the moment, hormones, parasites and their interactive effects are the candidates to explain such variation (see here for more details)

 

Red grouse has also been a fantastic study model to investigate sexual selection processes. This comes partially by their conspicuous sexual displays, resumed in their calling behaviour and the expression of supraorbital red combs in both males and females. Again, hormones, parasites, their interactive effect and the role of social context have been the focus at exploring the factors that mediates the expression of these traits.

 

I have closely collaborated with Prof. S. Redpath, Dr. F. Mougeot, Dr. L. Pérez-Rodríguez and Dr. P. Vergara on these aspects. Other collaborators like R. Tarjuelo or J. Haines have explored different factors influencing the expression of sexual traits, or the trade-off between ornament expression and reproduction in females.

All photographs of pied flycatchers were taken by Carlos Rodríguez-Expósito

Pied flycatcher (Ficedula hypoleuca)

 

Pied flycatchers are small migrant passerine birds broadly distributed across Europe and inhabits mainly on deciduous (oak) and pine forests, although less common in those habitat. They mainly start breeding in may in southern Europe and raise one brood of around 5 offspring (more information in Spanish here, or here in English).

 

Pied flycatchers have been at the hub of future climate variation on population numbers for a long time and in different studies. In addition, pied flycatchers are fantastic study species as well for sexual selection studies because males and females show a white forehead patch. This white patch is a sexual signal in males, that is, an index of individual quality advertised for males and females. But also, although less commonly studied in northern latitudes, females do express this patch, increasing in size as they age.

 

I am currently collaborating with Prof. J. Potti and Dr-to-be Carlos Camacho on the different factors that influence the additive genetic variance of the expression of this trait along how selection is acting on them. In other words, we are studying microevolution of secondary sexual traits, always taking advantage of the fantastic long-term and individual-monitored population that mainly Prof. J. Potti has been doing for the last 31 years!!!!

 

Cowpea seed beetle (Callosobruchus maculatus)

 

Cowpea beetles are ideal study systems to work on sexual selection in general and sexual conflict in particular. They are a easy species to work with in captive conditions and have been the target of multiple experiments of artificial selection and evolutionary potential of different behaviours and traits.

 

I am currently collaborating with Dr. F. Garcia-Gonzalez on the evolutionary potential of different sexual traits in this species. We will perform different experiments in wild conditions to explore heritability of sexual traits and the mediating ageing effect on them. All these experiments will be carried out in Spain, at Estación Biológica de Doñana.

Other species et al.

 

During my research career I have been lucky enough to work and be in different amazing places and studying multiple different species. Those poor species that have suffered my not-always soft and sweet handling are:

Lesser kestrels (Falco subbuteo) - during my PhD in collaboration with Dr. J.T. García.

Little bustards (Tetrax tetrax) - during my PhD regarding sexual displays in collaboration with Dr. J. Viñuela, Dr. J.T. García and Dr. M. Morales.

Lizzards (Lacerta lepida) - during my PhD and till now....

Common voles (Micortus arvalis) - since even before I started my PhD till nowadays always in collaboration with Dr. J. Fargallo.

Common buzzards (Buteo buteo) - during my first post-doc in Scotland in collaboration with Dr. F. Mougeot and Dr. B. Arroyo.

Black kites (Milvus migrans) - in collaboration with Dr. G. Blanco to get some money to auto-finance my PhD.

Imperial eagles (Aquila adalberti) - same reason than before.

Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) : lucky guy I was to be in Antarctica to work on anti-predator strategies and begging behaviour of this penguin in collaboration with Prof. J. Martín, Prof. M. Soler and Dr. L. de Neve.

White-crested Elaenia (Elaenia albiceps) - amazing opportunity that came across to work in Chile in collaboration with Dr. D. Gil, Dr. J.A. Fargallo and Dr. L. Pérez-Rodríguez.

All photographs shown here are of my own unless stated otherwise - I have also designed the entire web site, so this is © Jesús Martínez-Padilla