Whether birds gain advantages by cheating on their mates will be the topic at the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society’s next meeting, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, April 3, at Sandy Creek Nature Center. Anna Joy Lehmicke, who recently completed doctoral work with the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources, will present “Do Cheaters Always Prosper: The Costs and Benefits of Extra-Pair Paternity in Birds.”
While most birds appear to stay with the same mate during the breeding season or even for life, recent advances in molecular genetics have allowed researchers to discover that appearances can be deceiving. Among the vast majority of seemingly monogamous species, dalliances outside of the pair bond are surprisingly common. Lehmicke will discuss the potential costs and benefits of straying, using evidence from her own research on seaside sparrows and some scandalous examples from other scientific studies. Lehmicke, who recently completed her Ph.D., has been working with birds since her freshman year in college and became interested in genetics during a conservation genetics class while at the School of Forestry and Natural Resources.