Dr Sara Raj Pant

Sara Raj Pant

Sara was a joint PhD student at the universities of East Anglia (UK) and Groningen (NL). Her research interests lie within the fields of behavioural ecology, evolutionary biology and conservation. She is particularly interested in the evolution of cooperative breeding and other mating strategies.

During her PhD, she aimed to uncover the evolutionary forces underlying promiscuity, a mating strategy which is widespread across taxa, yet enigmatic from an evolutionary perspective. The Seychelles warbler provides an excellent study system, as this passerine is socially monogamous yet genetically promiscuous (ca. 40% of all offspring are extra-pair).

Firstly Sara sought to detect social and environmental factors, as well as individual parameters (body size, health, age…) which could influence extra-pair reproduction in this species. Further she aimed to estimate heritability of promiscuity and its potential genetic correlations with traits under positive selection in males and/or females.

These investigations allowed her to investigate the environmental and genetic basis of promiscuity, providing a fundamental understanding of the evolution of this behaviour in this cooperatively breeding study system. As promiscuity and cooperative breeding are widespread phenomena, the results could have wide-reaching consequences, improving our understanding of gene flow in societies, including our own.