Lab

Laboratorio de Conducta Animal -Drummond Lab

About the lab

For our research in Behavioral Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, we use long-term population monitoring, behavioral observation in the field and laboratory analyses, including molecular techniques, to study social behavior and reproduction. Our questions embrace issues of adaptation, evolution, development and control, as well as life history and demography in the context of El Niño Southern Oscillation and Global Warming. Much of this work revolves around a continuing 40-year study of a population of blue-footed boobies on a little tropical island 50 k off the Pacific coast of Mexico - Isla Isabel. We collaborate with the Isla Isabel national park authority and the fishermen from coastal towns and villages on programs of conservation and environmental education.

Featured projects (6)

Project
We published a study of boobies showingthat the fledglings most likely to recruit into the breeding population are those with one old parent and one young parent. Now we are finishing an experiment that asks whether genes or parental care are responsible.
Project
To investigate if individuals modify their laying date, with similar reaction norms, according to annual variation in local sea surface temperature
Project
We work to determine if the change in the predation of blue-footed boobies chicks by milksnake was influenced by the errdadicación of exotic fauna and the anomaly of the temperature of the sea, in the last 29 years.
Project
First, we aim to evaluate the capacity of the Blue-foots to face the challenges that warm water El Niño conditions pose both in their natal year and during their reproductive events, by modifying their reproductive effort allocation throughout their lifespan. Second, to determine whether this modification are efficient (if they reduce the impact on lifetime reproductive success).
Project
To determine the importance if El Niño events in the pathogen transmission in a Blue-footed booby population and to evaluate the effects of the reproductive effort, sex and age in the transmission, and its consequences on fitness and the demography of the boobies.

Featured research (29)

Females and males often exhibit different survival in nature, and it has been hypothesized that sex chromosomes may play a role in driving differential survival rates. For instance, the Y chromosome in mammals and the W chromosome in birds are often degenerated, with reduced numbers of genes, and loss of the Y chromosome in old men is associated with shorter life expectancy. However, mosaic loss of sex chromosomes has not been investigated in any non-human species. Here, we tested whether mosaic loss of the W chromosome (LOW) occurs with ageing in wild birds as a natural consequence of cellular senescence. Using loci-specific PCR and a target sequencing approach we estimated LOW in both young and adult individuals of two long-lived bird species and showed that the copy number of W chromosomes remains constant across age groups. Our results suggest that LOW is not a consequence of cellular ageing in birds. We concluded that the inheritance of the W chromosome in birds, unlike the Y chromosome in mammals, is more stable.
Haemosporidian parasites are common in birds, but often are not in seabirds. The absence of vectors/genetic resistance to infection have been proposed to explain this pattern. Examination of different host populations is required to confirm the absence of blood parasites in widespread host species, which could be differently exposed to blood parasites across their geographic range. Moreover, screening of blood parasites in many seabirds has been done only by visual inspection of blood smears, which can miss low-intensity infections. Screening of blood parasites of the genera Plasmodium , Haemoproteus and Leucocytozoon , combining inspection of blood smears and PCR-based detection methods, revealed that a highly philopatric colony of blue-footed boobies ( Sula nebouxii ) in the Tropical North Pacific is likely free of these parasites. Earlier detection of Haemoproteus parasites in frigatebirds cohabiting with boobies in our study site and blue-footed boobies breeding on the Galapagos Islands suggests that absence of blood parasites in this northern booby colony could not be attributable to the absence of vectors or genetic resistance to infection. High host specificity or fine-scale spatial heterogeneity in the abundance of insect vectors could explain our negative results, but these hypotheses remain to be tested. We emphasize the relevance of assessing the occurrence of blood parasites in different populations of widespread host species, such as blue-footed boobies.
The probability of Blue‐footed Booby Sula nebouxii fledglings becoming reproductive adults is maximal when one parent is old and the other young, and minimal when both are old or young. No mechanism has been identified to explain this pattern, but here we showed that nestlings with different‐aged parents are the least infested with ticks. This result constitutes preliminary confirmation of the hypothesis that the effect of combined parental ages on probability of recruitment is mediated by offspring immunocompetence. The contribution of immunocompetence and parental care to these parental age effects needs to be unravelled. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
Understanding and modeling population change is urgently needed to predict effects of climate change on biodiversity. High trophic‐level organisms are influenced by fluctuations of prey quality and abundance, which themselves may depend on climate oscillations. Modeling effects of such fluctuations is challenging because prey populations may vary with multiple climate oscillations occurring at different time scales. The analysis of a 28‐yr time series of capture–recapture data of a tropical seabird, the Nazca Booby (Sula granti), in the Galápagos, Ecuador, allowed us to test for demographic effects of two major ocean oscillations occurring at distinct time‐scales: the inter‐annual El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and inter‐decadal oscillations. As expected for a tropical seabird, survival of fledgling birds was highly affected by extreme ENSO events; by contrast, neither recruitment nor breeding participation were affected by either ENSO or decadal oscillations. More interesting, adult survival, a demographic trait that canalizes response to environmental variations, was unaffected by inter‐annual ENSO oscillations yet was shaped by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and small pelagic fish regime. Adult survival decreased during oceanic conditions associated with higher breeding success, an association probably mediated in this species by costs of reproduction that reduce survival when breeding attempts end later. To our knowledge, this is the first study suggesting that survival of a vertebrate can be vulnerable to a natural multidecadal oscillation.
In wild long-lived animals, analysis of impacts of stressful natal conditions on adult performance has rarely embraced the entire age span, and the possibility that costs are expressed late in life has seldom been examined. Using 26 years of data from 8541 fledglings and 1310 adults of the blue-footed booby (Sula nebouxii), a marine bird that can live up to 23 years, we tested whether experiencing the warm waters and food scarcity associated with El Niño in the natal year reduces recruitment or survival over the adult lifetime. Warm water in the natal year reduced the probability of recruiting; each additional degree (°C) of water temperature meant a reduction of roughly 50% in fledglings’ probability of returning to the natal colony as breeders. Warm water in the current year impacted adult survival, with greater effect at the oldest ages than during early adulthood. However, warm water in the natal year did not affect survival at any age over the adult lifespan. A previous study showed that early recruitment and widely spaced breeding allow boobies that experience warm waters in the natal year to achieve normal fledgling production over the first 10 years; our results now show that this reproductive effort incurs no survival penalty, not even late in life. This pattern is additional evidence of buffering against stressful natal conditions via life-history adjustments.

Lab head

Hugh Drummond
Department
  • Department of Evolutionary Ecology
About Hugh Drummond
  • My heart has always been in understanding the evolution of social behavior and for many years our work in the booby colony focussed on sibling conflict in booby broods and conflict between male and female partners. As the number of banded birds has risen, and the database has accumulated data on thousands of complete lives (the boobies can live 20 yrs or more and are highly philopatric), attention has increasingly switched to life history questions and analysing how the boobies deal with frequent El Niño events and Global Warming. Camping on the island during several months of each year is only possible because we have generous and solid logistical support from the Mexican navy and the fishermen of San Blas and Camichin who camp on the island. In return and out of concern for the conservation of the island and the prosperity and wellbeing of the fishermen, we look for opportunities to help conserve the island ecosystem and contribute to the fishermen´s camp and ecotourism activities.

Members (6)

Cristina Rodríguez
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Sergio Ancona
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México - Instituto de Ecología
Santiago Ortega
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Juan Pablo Ramírez Loza
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Laura Arroyo
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Bryan Mendoza
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Covadonga Lopez Portillo
Covadonga Lopez Portillo
  • Not confirmed yet
Ivan Bizberg
Ivan Bizberg
  • Not confirmed yet

Alumni (14)

Javier Manjarrez
  • Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México (UAEM)
Alejandro Gonzalez-Voyer
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Roxana Torres
  • Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
Alejandra Nuñez-de la Mora
  • Universidad Veracruzana