Postdoc in sexual selection (Morocco) ~

24 de febrero de 2015

Postdoc in sexual selection (Morocco)

We are seeking applicants for a two-year postdoctoral position to work on a project dealing with post-copulatory sexual selection in the houbara bustard.  The houbara bustard is an endangered bird species living in semi-desert areas in North Africa and central Asia. The Emirates Center for Wildlife Propagation (ECWP) has promoted a captive breeding program in Morocco aiming at producing houbara bustards to reinforce natural populations in North Africa.

The captive breeding involves a large number of adult birds of known age and pedigree. Reproduction is based on the collection of sperm and the artificial insemination of females. This offers a unique opportunity to address experimentally a number of issues related to post-copulatory sexual selection (sperm competition and cryptic female choice) in a non-domesticated species. The houbara bustard is an excellent model species to study sexual selection for several reasons. The houbara bustard has a lek-based mating system and females have been shown to copulate with different males in nature as witnessed by the high frequency of multiple paternity. Males have elaborate secondary sexual traits that are supposed to be used by females during mate choice. Traits describing sperm quality (number of sperm per ejaculate) have been shown to be heritable and can therefore respond to selection. Finally, sperm traits (but to a lesser extent secondary sexual traits) decline with male age.
The postdoc will run and supervise experiments aiming at testing the potential effect of sperm competition and cryptic female choice when females mate promiscuously with mates that vary in their levels of relatedness and in their age. In addition to the fundamental interest of investigating post-copulatory sexual selection in relation to kinship and aging, the results gathered will prove beneficial to optimize the management of the large number of birds involved in the captive breeding.

All the experiments are run at the ECWP in Missour (Morocco) where the post-doc will be based most of the time (the breeding season lasts from February to June). To ensure the necessary communication with the local staff in Morocco, the applicant must be able to communicate in French. Regular meetings will be organized with the project supervisors in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E (Yves Hingrat and Loïc Lesobre) and France (Michel Saint Jalme and Gabriele Sorci).

Applicants should have a PhD in evolutionary biology and a strong background in sexual selection. Applicants who are already familiar with the techniques of quantification of sperm quality will be given the priority.

The position will start in March 2015. Applicants are requested to send as soon as they wish a CV (with list of publications) and an application letter including the name of three referees to Yves Hingrat ( and Gabriele Sorci ( Review of applications will be conducted as soon as we receive them and will stop when we find a suitable candidate. The postdoc will be based in Morocco, at ECWP (at least during the breeding season and experiments). The breeding season of Houbara in the captive breeding in Morocco extends from January to June. During the first year (2015) the successful applicant will mainly learn ECWP breeding management and analyze the existing database which will allow her/him to design proper experiments for the 2016 season. The two year period is extendable with regards to preliminary results and the need for complementary experiments.

The successful applicant will be under contract with Reneco Wildlife Preservation (PoBox 61741,  Abu Dhabi, UAE), the consulting company managing ECWP. Food and accommodation are provided when on the project ECWP. Salary: commensurate with experience and qualifications.

Some recent literature that has been produced on this system

Preston, B.T., Saint Jalme, M., Hingrat, Y., Lacroix, F., Sorci, G. 2015. The sperm of aging male bustards retards their offspring’s development. Nature Communications 6: 6146.
Chargé, R., Sorci, G., Saint Jalme, M., Lesobre, L., Hingrat, Y., Lacroix, F., Teplitsky, C. 2014. Does recognized genetic management in supportive breeding prevent genetic changes in life-history traits? Evolutionary Applications 7: 521-532.
Chargé, R., Teplitsky, C., Hingrat, Y., Saint Jalme, M., Lacroix, F., Sorci, G. 2013. Quantitative genetics of sexual display, ejaculate quality and size in a lekking species. Journal of Animal Ecology 82: 399-407.
Chargé, R., Sorci, G., Hingrat, Y., Lacroix, F., Saint Jalme, M. 2011. Immune-mediated change in the expression of a sexual trait predicts offspring survival in the wild. PLoS ONE 6: e25305.
Preston, B., Saint Jalme, M., Hingrat, Y., Lacroix, F., Sorci G. 2011. Sexually extravagant males age more rapidly. Ecology Letters 14: 1017-1024.
Chargé, R., Saint Jalme, M., Lacroix, F., Cadet, A., Sorci, G. 2010. Male health status, signalled by courtship display, reveals ejaculate quality and hatching success in a lekking species. Journal of Animal Ecology 79: 843-850.

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