Avian alarm system detects threat level
Matthew Fuxjager, an assistant professor of biology, and graduate student, Eric Schupee, published their findings about the downy woodpecker, a species native to Winston-Salem, in Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology in 2016. Fuxjager says the core goal of all of his research is to understand how and why animals produce remarkable behaviors.
In his ongoing quest to explain some wild behaviors, Fuxjager has led student research teams in the study of all kinds of species. He found that hormone levels of male manakins, a type of exotic bird, are an important factor in the species’ acrobatic courtship dances. In a related study of the species, he and his team also uncovered that the tropical bird’s superfast wings, endowed with an unusual turbo-speed capacity, are engineered to enhance mating, not flying.
Fuxjager’s research has led to some valuable insights for humans as well. In a study that has training implications for athletes, Fuxjager and his team learned that male California mice who experience surges of testosterone before and after aggressive encounters are more likely to be victorious in future skirmishes.
And his animal behavior research continues. Stay tuned.


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