Cooperation in complex societies: why all the noise?


How and why do animals help each other? This is an area that fascinates many ABEL members. Local colour-marked, genotyped and long-term monitored colonies of Noisy Miners (Manorina melanocephala) are typically used, as these birds provide an ideal focal species for testing cooperative theory.


Miners have one of the more complex acoustic repertoires known, also using referential alarm calls that warn colony members of not just the presence of danger, but the type of predator that is near. Understanding their acoustic system therefore provides valuable insight into their social system and is a major research focus.

Miners cooperate across a range of modalities (such as feeding young, mobbing predators or social foraging) enabling cooperation across a range of costs and benefits to be explored.


The colonies that we work on are all within 20km of UNE, so they are convenient and easy to work with as a study species.


Ongoing questions revolve around understanding what different vocalisations mean, how they coordinate cooperation and enable colonies to function.

For more information, contact Prof. Paul McDonald