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Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology

Interactions and behaviours underpinning evolution and ecology - home

Nicola Marples TCD

photo of andrew jackson


Prof Nicola Marples

Professor in Zoology

Prof Nicola Marples

Leader of the Behavioural and Evolutionary Ecology Group and member of the Evolutionary Biology and Ecology/Biological Sciences and the Trinity Centre for Biodiversity Research


Tel: +353 (0) 1 896 1063
Fax: +353 (0) 1 6778094
Skype: nicola.marples 
Mail: Zoology Building, School of Natural Sciences, Trinity College Dublin, Dublin 2, Ireland





Research Interests


My research aims to understand the interaction between behaviour and evolution, both in pure and applied contexts. For example, I am interested in predator-prey systems between birds and insects and how they co-evolve. Adaptations of the colour patterns in the insects alter the decisions by the birds, and different predation strategies played by individual birds alter the selection pressures on the insects. This arms race between predators and prey offers me a perfect setting to investigate the co-evolutionary processes taking place as we watch.

On a larger scale, I am interested in the evolution taking place on islands. Once again using bird species as our models, we are building a detailed understanding of the morphological and behavioural changes, including changes in song, which are occurring among the birds found across an archipelago of islands in Indonesia. This will allow us to understand the evolutionary pressures on these birds and so gain a better understanding of the evolutionary processes leading to speciation.

I also have a research group investigating the behaviour of badgers, their ranging behaviour, diet, reproductive strategies and parasites in Ireland. Building a comprehensive picture of badger ecology in Ireland is important both for effective conservation of this secretive member of our fauna, and because they have been shown to act as a wildlife reservoir for tuberculosis in cattle. Our results are used to assist the Department of Agriculture (DAFM) in effective delivery of a TB vaccine to the badgers.

I have long been interested in using an understanding of animal behaviour to inform captive animal management, improving the welfare of animals in zoos and the success of release programmes and conservation.


Recent/Selected Publications (» all publications)


Keane C.K. and Marples N.M. (2016) The effects of zoo visitors on a group of Western Lowland Gorillas Gorilla gorilla gorilla before and after the birth of an infant in Dublin Zoo. In press International Zoo Yearbook 2015

Corner LAL, Stuart LJ, Kelly DJ, Marples NM (2015) Reproductive Biology Including Evidence for Superfetation in the European Badger Meles meles (Carnivora: Mustelidae). PLoS ONE 10(10): e0138093. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138093

Mullen, E.M., MacWhite T., Maher P., Kelly D.J., Marples N.M., & Good M. (2015) The avoidance of farmyards by European badgers Meles meles in a medium density population. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 171:170-176

 Keane, C. & Marples, N.M. (2015) Zoo Playgrounds: A Source of Enrichment or Stress for a Group of Nearby Cockatoos: A case study. Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science18:375–387    DOI: 10.1080/10888705.2015.1034278

O’Reilly C, Kelly D. J., Marples N. M. and Harte N. (2015) Quantifying difference in vocalizations of bird populations. Proceedings of Interspeech 2015: 3417–3421.

Richards E.L., Alexander L.G., Snellgrove D., Thomas R.J., Marples N.M. & Cable J (2014) Variation in the expression of dietary conservatism within and between fish species. Animal Behaviour 88, 49-56.

McMahon, K., Conboy, A.,  O'Byrne-White, E., Thomas, R.J., & Marples N.M. (2014) Dietary wariness influences the response of foraging birds to competitors. Animal Behaviour 89, 63-69

Kelly S.B.A.,  Kelly D.J., Cooper N., Bahrun A., Analuddin K. & Marples N.M. (2014) Molecular and Phenotypic Data Support the Recognition of the Wakatobi Flowerpecker (Dicaeum kuehni) from the Unique and Understudied Sulawesi Region. PLoS ONE 9(6): e98694. doi:

Marples N.M. and Mappes J. 2011 Can the dietary conservatism of predators compensate for positive frequency dependent selection against rare, conspicuous prey? Evolutionary Ecology 25: 737-749. doi

Richards E.L., Thomas R.J., Marples N.M., Snellgrove D.L., Cable J. 2011 The expression of dietary conservatism in solitary and shoaling 3-spined sticklebacks Gasterosteus aculeatus. Behavioral Ecology 22: 738-744. doi

Mappes J., Marples N., and Endler J A. 2005 The Complex business of survival by aposematism. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 20: 598-603


» full list of publications


Current Projects

Research currently underway:

  1. Ranging and dispersal studies on badgers through GPS tracking of a badger population, in association with DAFM and NPWS. (Aoibheann Gaughran)
  2. Analysis of the genetic inter-relatedness of badger social groups (Aoibheann Gaughran)
  3. Bait delivery trials for vaccine delivery to badgers (Dave Kelly)
  4. A survey of the micro and macro endo-parasites found in badgers across Ireland and how this differs between sexes and age groups. This is a collaboration with the Parasitology group, TCD (Celia Holland).
  5. A long term biogeography investigation in Indonesia, investigating the evolutionary changes occurring in the bird populations living on islands near Sulawesi. This project is partly funded by Operation Wallacea
  6. Song analysis looking for the very first stages of speciation in bird populations on Indonesian islands. This project is in conjunction with Prof. Harte’s group: Digital Media Systems, Electronic & Electrical Engineering, TCD.
  7. Investigation of the effect of group foraging on the expression of foraging strategies by sticklebacks.


Last updated 9 December 2016 by