Justin A. Welbergen

Justin A. Welbergen
Western Sydney University · Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment

PhD (Cambridge)

About

98
Publications
26,316
Reads
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3,109
Citations
Citations since 2017
57 Research Items
1961 Citations
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Introduction
I am an evolutionary and animal ecologist with strong parallel interests in conservation and climate change biology. I conducted my PhD in Zoology at the University of Cambridge and following various research and teaching positions in the UK and Australia, I now lead the Lab of Animal Ecology at the Hawkesbury Institute for the Environment at the University of Western Sydney. ANIMALECOLOGYLAB.ORG
Additional affiliations
January 2014 - January 2016
James Cook University
Position
  • Adjunct Senior Research Fellow
January 2014 - January 2021
Western Sydney University
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
January 2011 - January 2014
James Cook University
Position
  • Senior Researcher
Education
December 2001 - December 2005
University of Cambridge
Field of study
  • Zoology
August 1994 - August 1998
University of Amsterdam
Field of study
  • Biology

Publications

Publications (98)
Article
Full-text available
Little is known about the effects of temperature extremes on natural systems. This is of increasing concern now that climate models predict dramatic increases in the intensity, duration and frequency of such extremes. Here we examine the effects of temperature extremes on behaviour and demography of vulnerable wild flying-foxes (Pteropus spp.). On...
Article
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Coevolutionary arms races, where adaptations in one party select for counter-adaptations in another and vice versa, are fundamental to interactions between organisms and their predators, pathogens, and parasites [1]. Avian brood parasites and their hosts have emerged as model systems for studying such reciprocal coevolutionary processes [2, 3]. For...
Article
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Defeating the Cuckoo Brood parasite-host interactions show ongoing antagonistic coevolution. What mediates rapid behavioral changes that do not reflect genetic change? Davies and Welbergen (p. 1318 ) show that reed warblers learn from their neighbors to behave aggressively toward models of the parasitic common cuckoo. Furthermore, reed warblers see...
Article
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Mimicry is a canonical example of adaptive signal design. In principle, what constitutes mimicry is independent of the taxonomic identity of the mimic, the ecological context in which it operates, and the sensory modality through which it is expressed. However, in practice the study of mimicry is inconsistent across research fields, with theoretica...
Article
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Background: Effective conservation management of highly mobile species depends upon detailed knowledge of movements of individuals across their range; yet, data are rarely available at appropriate spatiotemporal scales. Flying-foxes (Pteropus spp.) are large bats that forage by night on floral resources and rest by day in arboreal roosts that may...
Article
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Aim Conservation has recently shifted to include behavioural or cultural diversity, adding substantial value to conservation efforts. Habitat loss and fragmentation can deplete diversity in learnt behaviours such as bird song by reducing the availability of song tutors, yet these impacts are poorly understood. Vocal mimicry may be particularly sens...
Article
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Despite much research on mimicry, little is known about the ecology of dynamic mimetic signals involving mimicry of multiple species. Some of the most conspicuous examples of phenotypically plastic mimicry are produced by oscine passerines, where vocal production learning enables some species to mimic multiple models and flexibly adjust what they m...
Article
The ghost bat (Macroderma gigas) is a carnivorous species of bat endemic to northern Australia that roosts in colonies of up to 1,500 individuals. The ghost bat produces a number of social vocalisations, but little is known about the species’ behaviour and what role social vocalisations play in interactions between conspecifics. The aim of this stu...
Article
Context: Accurate and precise monitoring practises are key for effective wildlife conservation management; providing reliable estimates of spatiotemporal changes in species abundance on which sound decision-making can be based. Advancements in drone and satellite technology are providing new standards for survey accuracy and precision and have grea...
Article
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Generally, urbanization is a major threat to biodiversity; however, urban areas also provide habitats that some species can exploit. Flying-foxes (Pteropus spp.) are becoming increasingly urbanized; which is thought to be a result of increased availability and temporal stability of urban food resources, diminished natural food resources, or both. P...
Article
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Study of the impacts of the 2019–2020 Black Summer bushfires on flying-foxes has mainly focused on the effects of burnt habitat on food availability. It has previously only been assumed that flying-foxes probably died directly from these bushfires. We report an eyewitness account of numbers of grey-headed flying-foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) being...
Article
Mimicry has long been a focus of research, but little is known about how and why many species of bird incorporate imitations of heterospecific sounds into their vocal displays. Crucial to understanding mimetic song is determining what sounds are mimicked and in what contexts such mimicry is produced. The superb lyrebird, Menura novaehollandiae, is...
Article
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Due to their geographical isolation and small populations, insular bats may not be able to maintain acute immunising viruses that rely on a large population for viral maintenance. Instead, endemic transmission may rely on viruses establishing persistent infections within hosts or inducing only short‐lived neutralizing immunity. Therefore, studies o...
Article
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A bstract Background Animals are important vectors for the dispersal of a wide variety of plant species, and thus play a key role in maintaining the health and biodiversity of natural ecosystems. On oceanic islands, flying-foxes are often the only seed dispersers or pollinators. However, many flying-fox populations are currently in decline, partic...
Article
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Most studies of acoustic communication focus on short units of vocalization such as songs, yet these units are often hierarchically organized into higher-order sequences and, outside human language, little is known about the drivers of sequence structure. Here, we investigate the organization, transmission and function of vocal sequences sung by ma...
Article
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Birds perform some of the most elaborate inter‐sexual displays in the animal kingdom but while these are typically associated with the pre‐copulation stage of sexual interactions, the males of some species also display following copulation. Here we report that immediately after dismounting from females, male Superb Lyrebirds Menura novaehollandiae...
Article
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Context: The grey-headed flying-fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) is a vulnerable species endemic to eastern and south-eastern Australia. Environmental stressors are important contributors to physiological stress, leading to synchronous abortions. Aims: We investigate the possibilities of weather conditions and anthropogenic disturbances contributing t...
Article
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SARS-CoV-2, the cause of COVID-19, infected over 100 million people globally by February 2021. Reverse zoonotic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from humans to other species has been documented in pet cats and dogs, big cats and gorillas in zoos, and farmed mink. As SARS-CoV-2 is closely related to known bat viruses, assessment of the potential risk of t...
Article
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Background For specialised pollinators, the synchrony of plant and pollinator life history is critical to the persistence of pollinator populations. This is even more critical in nursery pollination, where pollinators are obligately dependant on female host plant flowers for oviposition sites. Epicephala moths (Gracillariidae) form highly specialis...
Article
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Urban expansion is a major threat to natural ecosystems but also creates novel opportunities that adaptable species can exploit. The grey-headed flying-fox ( Pteropus poliocephalus ) is a threatened, highly mobile species of bat that is increasingly found in human-dominated landscapes, leading to many management and conservation challenges. Flying-...
Article
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Plants with a small number of specific pollinators may be vulnerable to fluctuations in the availability of those pollinators, which could limit plant reproductive success and even result in extinction. Plants can develop mechanisms to mitigate this risk, such as apomixis. Reproductive assurance mechanisms have been largely ignored in obligate poll...
Article
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Pacific Island bats are utterly fascinating, yet under threat and overlooked. Meet 4 species https://theconversation.com/pacific-island-bats-are-utterly-fascinating-yet-under-threat-and-overlooked-meet-4-species-165765 Paci c Island bats are utterly fascinating, yet under threat and overlooked. Meet 4 species
Article
Urbanization creates novel ecological spaces where some species thrive. Geographical urbanization promotes human–wildlife conflict; however, we know relatively little about the drivers of biological urbanization, which poses impediments for sound wildlife management and conservation action. Flying-foxes are extremely mobile and move nomadically in...
Article
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Habitat loss and alteration are two of the biggest threats facing insular flying-foxes. Altered habitats are often re-vegetated with introduced or domestic plant species on which flying-foxes may forage. However, these alien food plants may not meet the nutritional requirements of flying-foxes. The critically endangered Christmas Island flying-fox...
Article
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Mass mortalities in flying-foxes occur in summers that reach extremely hot temperatures. In this study, we examine the spatiotemporal distributions of mortality from pup abandonments and extreme heat events in Australian flying-fox camps during the 2019–20 summer. We recorded data on flying-fox mortality in known affected camps and applied a standa...
Article
Fur properties play a critical role in the thermoregulation of mammals and are becoming of particular interest as the frequency, intensity, and duration of extreme heat events are increasing under climate change. Australian flying-foxes are known to experience mass die-offs during extreme heat events, yet little is known about how different fur pro...
Preprint
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For pollinating insects that visit just a single flowering species, the co-occurrence of flowers and insects in time is likely to have critical implications for both plant and pollinator. Insects often utilise diapause to persist through periods in which resources are unavailable, timing their re-emergence by responding to the same environmental cu...
Article
Research on avian vocalisations has traditionally focused on male song produced by oscine passerines. However, accumulating evidence indicates that complex vocalisations can readily evolve outside the traditional contexts of mate attraction and territory defence by male birds, and yet the previous bias towards male song has shaped – and continues t...
Article
Full-text available
Accurate and precise monitoring of species abundance is essential for determining population trends and responses to environmental change. However, traditional population survey methods can be unreliable and labour‐intensive, which complicates the effective conservation and management of many threatened species. We developed a method of using drone...
Article
Darwin argued that females’ “taste for the beautiful” drives the evolution of male extravagance,but sexual selection theory also predicts that extravagant ornaments can arise from sexual conflict and deception. The sensory trap hypothesis posits that elaborate sexual signals can evolve via antagonistic coevolution whereby one sex uses deceptive mim...
Article
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Coevolutionary arms races between brood parasites and hosts provide tractable systems for understanding antagonistic coevolution in nature; however, little is known about the fate of frontline antiparasite defences when the host ‘wins’ the coevolutionary arms race. By recreating bygone species-interactions, using artificial parasitism experiments,...
Article
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Geographic variation in bird song has received much attention in evolutionary studies, yet few consider components within songs that may be subject to different constraints and follow different evolutionary trajectories. Here, we quantify patterns of geographic variation in the socially transmitted “whistle” song of Albert's lyrebirds (Menura alber...
Article
The ghost bat (Macroderma gigas) is a colonial and highly vocal species that is impacted by human visitation of caves. The ability to document behaviours inside the roost by recording vocalisations could provide an important new tool for the management of this disturbance-prone species by removing the need for in-person confirmation of reproductive...
Article
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Conservation relies upon a primary understanding of changes in a species’ population size, distribution, and habitat use. Bats represent about one in five mammal species in the world, but understanding for most species is poor. For flying-foxes, specifically the 66 Pteropus species globally, 31 are classified as threatened (Vulnerable, Endangered,...
Article
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The Christmas Island flying-fox (Pteropus natalis) is the last native mammal on Christmas Island and its population is in decline. Phosphate mining occurs across much of the eastern side of Christmas Island. The phosphate deposits are naturally rich in cadmium, and potentially other metals, which may be threatening the Christmas Island flying-fox p...
Article
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Due to their large range across diverse habitats, flying-foxes are potential bioindicator species for environmental metal exposure. To test this hypothesis, blood spots, urine, fur, liver and kidney samples were collected from grey-headed flying-foxes (Pteropus poliocephalus) and black flying-foxes (P. alecto) from the Sydney basin, Australia. Conc...
Article
Context: In Australia, various species of macropods (family Macropodidae) are known to occur within peri-urban areas, where they can be a source of human–wildlife conflict. Some species, such as the eastern grey kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), have received considerable research attention over the past few years following demands from land managers...
Article
Reproductive suppression, whereby individuals decrease the reproductive output of conspecific rivals, is well-studied in mammals, but while it is suspected to be widespread in birds, evidence of this phenomenon remains rare in this class. Here we provide compelling evidence of reproductive suppression in the Superb Lyrebird ( Menura novaehollandie...
Article
Adult body size, mass and condition predict reproductive success and survival, and hence fitness, in mammals and many other animals. Here, we assessed morphological variation and body condition in populations of the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) along an urban to natural land use gradient in the Sydney region, Australia. The red fox was introduced into A...
Article
Full-text available
Knowledge of species’ population trends is crucial when planning for conservation and management; however, this information can be difficult to obtain for extremely mobile species such as flying-foxes (Pteropus spp.; Chiroptera, Pteropodidae). In mainland Australia, flying-foxes are of particular management concern due their involvement in human-wi...
Article
Many passerine birds are small and require a high mass-specific rate of resting energy expenditure, especially in the cold. The energetics of thermoregulation is, therefore, an important aspect of their ecology, yet few studies have quantified thermoregulatory patterns in wild passerines. We used miniature telemetry to record the skin temperature (...
Article
Full-text available
1. Mutualisms are relationships of mutual exploitation, in which interacting species receive a net benefit from their association. In obligate pollination mutualisms (OPMs), female pollinators move pollen between the flowers of a single plant species and oviposit eggs within the female flowers that they visit. 2. Competition between co‐occurring po...
Article
Extreme heat events pose increasing challenges to biodiversity conservation worldwide, yet our ability to predict the time, place and magnitude of their impacts on wildlife is limited. Extreme heat events in Australia are known to kill thousands of flying‐foxes (Pteropus spp.), and such die‐offs are expected to become more frequent and widespread i...
Article
Introduced species can cause major disruptions to ecosystems, particularly on islands. On Christmas Island, the invasive yellow crazy ant (Anoplolepis gracilipes) has detrimental impacts on many animals ranging from the iconic red crabs (Gecarcoidea natalis) to the Christmas Island Thrush (Turdus poliocephalus erythropleurus). However, the full ext...
Article
Full-text available
Increases in mean temperatures caused by anthropogenic climate change increase the frequency and severity of temperature extremes. Although extreme temperature events are likely to become increasingly important drivers of species' response to climate change, the impacts are poorly understood owing mainly to a lack of understanding of species’ physi...
Article
Full-text available
Background Obligate pollination mutualisms (OPMs) are specialized interactions in which female pollinators transport pollen between the male and female flowers of a single plant species and then lay eggs into those same flowers. The pollinator offspring hatch and feed upon some or all of the developing ovules pollinated by their mothers. Strong tra...
Article
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Flying foxes (family Pteropodidae) have distinct life histories given their size, characterized by longevity, low reproductive output, and long gestation. However, they tend to decouple the age at which sexual maturity is reached from the age at which they reach adult dimensions. We examined growth, maturation, and reproduction in the Critically En...
Article
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The grey-headed flying fox ( Pteropus poliocephalus) is a species endemic to coastal eastern Australia. This study presents a comprehensive set of biochemistry, hematology, and urinalysis biomarkers from which reference values were derived. Blood samples collected from free-ranging P. poliocephalus were submitted for hematology ( n = 140) and plasm...
Chapter
In this chapter, we consider the ways in which learning is involved in the anti-brood parasitism defences that hosts deploy across the nesting cycle. Brood parasitism varies in space and through time, and hosts have accordingly evolved plastic defences that can be tuned to local conditions. Hosts can achieve their defence plasticity by individual a...
Article
Full-text available
Some of the most striking vocalizations in birds are made by males that incorporate vocal mimicry in their sexual displays. Mimetic vocalization in females is largely undescribed, but it is unclear whether this is because of a lack of selection for vocal mimicry in females, or whether the phenomenon has simply been overlooked. These issues are thro...
Article
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Refugia - areas that may facilitate the persistence of species during large-scale, long-term climatic change - are increasingly important for conservation planning. There are many methods for identifying refugia, but the ability to quantify their potential for facilitating species persistence (ie their ?capacity?) remains elusive. We propose a flex...
Technical Report
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In 2013, the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area (WTWHA) was identified as the sixth most irreplaceable area on Earth for conservation of amphibian, bird and mammal species. It also ranked globally as the second most irreplaceable natural World Heritage site. These rankings were based on data of 173,000 terrestrial protected areas and ass...
Technical Report
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While gradual changes in climate means will have numerous effects on a range of environmental, social, and economic sectors, emerging evidence shows that many of the environmental, social, and economic impacts of anthropogenic climate change will arise from shifts in the regimes of extreme weather and climatic events, including heat waves, fires, f...
Article
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The interactions between avian obligate interspecific brood parasites and their hosts provide tractable systems for studying coevolutionary processes in nature. This review highlights recent advances in understanding coevolution in these systems. First, we discuss the evolution and phylogenetic history of avian brood parasitism. Next, we examine co...
Conference Paper
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Significant impacts of climate change will emerge through shifts in the intensity and the frequency of extreme weather and climate events. Such extreme events are the way in which people, animals and plants will directly experience climate change, yet very little is known about how these events affect natural systems. Australian flying-foxes (Ptero...
Article
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To assess a species' vulnerability to climate change, we commonly use mapped environmental data that are coarsely resolved in time and space. Coarsely resolved temperature data are typically inaccurate at predicting temperatures in microhabitats used by an organism and may also exhibit spatial bias in topographically complex areas. One consequence...
Article
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From Roman classics to British tabloids, humans have long celebrated the curious and remarkable ability of birds to imitate the sounds of humans and other animals. A recent surge of research is revealing how and why birds use vocal mimicry to further their own interests, as we discuss in Biological Reviews. Far from being merely a biological curios...