Michael Griesser

Research interests

I have broad interests in social and life-history evolution, with a particular focus on the evolution of family living and cooperative breeding in birds. Previous research treated the evolution of cooperative breeding as a single evolutionary transition. Research in my group, however, shows that the origin of cooperative breeding in birds actually involves two steps. Firstly, families form through the retention of independent offspring with their parents, and secondly, these offspring begin to help at the nest. Moreover, the factors that promote family-living differ from those that promote helping at the nest. Thus, a better understanding of the evolutionary steps through which cooperative breeding arose helps to clarify the current debate on the conditions favouring its evolution.

Current research themes include:

1. We use large scale comparative studies to understand the eco-climatic and life-history factors associated with the evolution of family living and cooperate breeding, which should improve our understanding of the evolution of cooperation.

2. We use field experiments in 15 European bird species to understand the parental reproductive investment decisions associated with family living and cooperative breeding. In particular, we are interested in the allocation trade-off between current and future reproductive investment.

3. We examine the proximate mechanisms of family living using Siberian jays. Groups include retained offspring and immigrant non-breeders, providing a natural set-up to study the influence of kinship on interactions among group members. Past research showed that parents provide retained offspring with nepotistic access to food and antipredator protection, offering them a fitness incentive to remain with the parents beyond independency.

4. We examine skill learning and cognitive consequences of family living, using both comparative studies and experiments in Siberian jays.

5. We explore the effect of forest management on population dynamics of Siberian jays, using long-term data reaching back to 1953.

Please follow this link for more information about the Siberian jay project.

Recent Publications

see Google Scholar for all my publications.

Griesser M, Suzuki T. 2016. Occasional cooperative breeding in birds and the robustness of comparative analyses concerning the evolution of cooperative breeding. Zoological Letters 7: 1-11 

Suzuki T, Wheatcroft D, Griesser M. 2016. Experimental evidence for compositional syntax in bird calls. Nature Communications 7: 10986.

Mourocq E, Bize P, Bouwhuis S, Bradley R, Charmantier A, de la Cruz A, Drobniak SM, Espie RHM, Herényi M, Hötker H, Krüger O, Marzluff J, Møller AP, Nakagawa S, Phillips RA, Radford AN, Roulin A, Török J, Valencia J, van de Pol M, Warkentin IG, Winney IS, Wood AG, Griesser M. 2016. Lifespan and reproductive cost explain interspecific variation in the optimal onset of reproduction. Evolution 70:296-313.

Mills JA, Teplitsky C, Arroyo B, Charmantier A, Becker PH, Birkhead TR, Bize P, Blumstein DT, Bonenfant C, Boutin S, Bushuev A, Cam E, Cockburn A, Côté SD, Coulson JC, Daunt F, Dingemanse NJ, Doligez B, Drummond H, Espie RHM, Festa-Bianchet M, Frentiu F, Fitzpatrick JW, Furness RW, Garant D, Gauthier G, Grant PR, Griesser M, Gustafsson L, Hansson B, Harris MP, Jiguet F, Kjellander P, Korpimäki E, Krebs CJ, Lens L, Linnell JDC, Low M, McAdam A, Margalida A, Merilä J, Møller AP, Nakagawa S, Nilsson J-Å, Nisbet ICT, van Noordwijk AJ, Oro D, Pärt T, Pelletier F, Potti J, Pujol B, Réale D, Rockwell RF, Ropert-Coudert Y, Roulin A, Sedinger JS, Swenson JE, Thébaud C, Visser ME, Wanless S, Westneat DF, Wilson AJ, Zedrosser A, 2016. Solutions for Archiving Data in Long-Term Studies: A Reply to Whitlock et al. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 31: 85-87.

Ekman J, Griesser M. 2016. Siberian jays: delayed dispersal in the absence of cooperative breeding. In: Cooperative Breeding: Studies of Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior, Ed. Koenig W, Dickinson J. page 6-18.

Griesser M, Suzuki T. 2016. Kinship modulates the attention of naïve individuals to the mobbing behaviour of role models. Animal Behaviour, 112: 83-91.

Griesser M, Halvarsson P, Drobniak S, Vila C. Fine-scale kin recognition in the absence of social familiarity in the Siberian jay, a monogamous bird species. Molecular Ecology, 24, 5726–5738.

Mills JA, Teplitsky C, Arroyo B, Charmantier A, Becker PH, Birkhead TR, Bize P, Blumstein DT, Bonenfant C, Boutin S, Bushuev A, Cam E, Cockburn A, Côté SD, Coulson JC, Daunt F, Dingemanse NJ, Doligez B, Drummond H, Espie RHM, Festa-Bianchet M, Frentiu F, Fitzpatrick JW, Furness RW, Garant D, Gauthier G, Grant PR, Griesser M, Gustafsson L, Hansson B, Harris MP, Jiguet F, Kjellander P, Korpimäki E, Krebs CJ, Lens L, Linnell JDC, Low M, McAdam A, Margalida A, Merilä J, Møller AP, Nakagawa S, Nilsson J-Å, Nisbet ICT, van Noordwijk AJ, Oro D, Pärt T, Pelletier F, Potti J, Pujol B, Réale D, Rockwell RF, Ropert-Coudert Y, Roulin A, Sedinger JS, Swenson JE, Thébaud C, Visser ME, Wanless S, Westneat DF, Wilson AJ, Zedrosser A, 2015. Archiving Primary Data: Solutions for Long-Term Studies. Trends in Ecoloy and Evolution,30:581-589.

Drobniak S, Wagner G, Mourocq E, Griesser M. 2015. Family living: an overlooked but pivotal social system to understand the evolution of cooperative breeding. Behavioural Ecology, 26: 805-811.

Schneider NA, Griesser M. 2015. Within-season increase in parental investment in a long-lived bird species: investment shifts to maximize successful reproduction? Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 28: 231-240.

Valcu M, Dale J, Griesser M, Nakagawa S, Kempenaers B. 2014. Global gradients of avian longevity support the evolutionary theory of ageing. Ecography, 37: 930–938.

Griesser M, Halvarsson P, Sahlman T, Ekman J, 2014. What are the strengths and limitations of direct and indirect assessment of dispersal? Insights from a long-term field study in a group-living bird species. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 68: 485-497.

Schneider NA, Griesser M. 2013. Incubating females use dynamic risk assessment to evaluate the risk posed by different predators. Behavioral Ecology,24: 47-52.

Griesser M. 2013. Do warning calls boost survival of signal recipients? Evidence from a field experiment in a group-living bird species. Frontiers in Zoology10.1: 49.

Zarybnika, M, Korpimäki, E, Griesser, M. 2012. Dark nights or short nights: differential latitudinal constraints in nestling provisioning patterns of a nocturnally hunting bird species. PLoS ONE 7(5): e 36932.

Griesser, M, Lagerberg, S. 2012. Long-term effects of forest management on territory occupancy and breeding success of an open-nesting boreal bird species, the Siberian jay. Forest Ecology and Management 271:58-64