Graduate position: UBourgogne.AvianSexualSelection
From the Evolution Directory (EvolDir) via Twitter.
*Post-copulatory sexual selection in the houbara bustard*
/A three year PhD position is available to work on a collaborative
project dealing with the post-copulatory sexual selection in the houbara
In most animal species, females mate with multiple males giving rise to
the potential for sperm competition and cryptic female choice. These
post-copulatory components of sexual selection add to those acting on
males to attract mates (pre-copulatory sexual selection).
Although the study of post-copulatory sexual selection has flourished in
the last decade, there are very few biological systems that are amenable
to the experimental study of sperm competition and cryptic choice.
Houbara bustards are endangered bird species living in North Africa
(/Chlamydotis undulata/), Middle East and Central Asia (/Chlamydotis
macqueeni/). In order to restore and reinforce natural populations of
houbara in Middle East, the National Avian Research Center (NARC) has
promoted a captive breeding program in Abu Dhabi (EAU) under the
leadership of the International Fund for Houbara Conservation. This
breeding program is based on the collection of sperm which is
subsequently used to artificially inseminate females under standardized
conditions (Saint Jalme et al. 1994). This allows investigating several
aspects related to sperm competition and cryptic choice, in a species
where both pre- and post-copulatory sexual selection is supposed to be a
strong selective force. Indeed, males harbor extravagant sexual displays
(Chargé et al. 2010, 2011; Preston et al. 2011) and females have been
shown to mate with multiple males in the wild, where the proportion of
clutches sired by multiple fathers is fairly high (60%) (Lesobre et al.
In the first stage of the PhD thesis, we expect to better characterize
sperm traits that determine the likelihood to successfully fertilize
eggs. Then, experimental work could be conducted to explore the
1)Is there a trade-off between pre- and post-copulatory components of
2)Is fertilization success mostly driven by sperm competition or cryptic
3)Is there a scope for sexual conflict in this system?
In addition to their fundamental interest, the obtained results could
also be valuable with respect to the genetic management of the captive
breeding. On one hand, inseminating with a mix of semen could facilitate
insemination procedure by reducing the time spent to select precise
pedigree and by optimizing semen utilization (mixture of small
ejaculates that are usually discarded could be easily used). On the
other hand, sperm competition might result in severely biased paternity
with a potential for strong involuntary selection acting on breeding males.
This is a collaborative project involving the NARC (Yves Hingrat, Loic
Lesobre, Tony Chalah) where all the experimental work will be carried
out and where the successful applicant will spend most of the time, the
French CNRS in Dijon (Gabriele Sorci) and the Museum of Natural History
in Paris (Michel Saint Jalme).
Interested applicants should send a CV and the name of three references
to Gabriele Sorci (firstname.lastname@example.org
) and Michel Saint Jalme
*Salary*: 1,250 euros per month. Accommodation and food is provided by
the NARC with no fees for the student.
*Selected articles published by the group related to the project*
Chargé R. et al. 2011. Immune-Mediated Change in the Expression of a
Sexual Trait Predicts Offspring Survival in the Wild. PLoS ONE 6: e25305.
Preston B. et al. 2011. Sexually extravagant males age more rapidly.
Ecology Letters 14: 1017-1024.
Chargé et al. 2010. Male health status, signalled by courtship display,
reveals ejaculate quality and hatching success in a lekking species.
Journal of Animal Ecology 79: 843-850.
Lesobre L. et al. 2010. Conservation genetics of Houbara Bustard
(Chlamydotis undulata undulata): population structure and its
implications for the reinforcement of wild populations. Conservation
Genetics 11: 1489-1497.
Lesobre L. et al. 2010. Absence of male reproductive skew, along with
high frequency of polyandry and conspecific brood parasitism in the
lekking Houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata undulata. Journal of Avian
Biology 41: 117-127.
Saint Jalme M. et al. 1994.Artificial insemination in Houbara bustard
(Chlamydotis undulata): influence of the number of spermatozoa and
insemination frequency on fertility and ability to hatch. Journal of
Reproduction and Fertility 100: 93-103.