Dr Gabriel Jamie

BA(Hons) (Cambridge), PhD (Cambridge)

Activities and research interests

Dr Gabriel Jamie is a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge. His research combines fieldwork, genomic and computational approaches to answer questions in speciation, mimicry, polymorphism and taxonomy, with a particular focus on avian biodiversity in Africa.

He became interested in science as a child through watching birds, first in Cape Town and then in the United Kingdom. This has resulted in a life-long avian obsession that has led him to fieldwork on birds in many places around the world. As a teenager he worked on projects studying migratory birds in the Danube Delta of Romania and on Antikythira in Greece. While doing an undergraduate degree in Natural Sciences at the University of Cambridge, Gabriel spent summers working as a research assistant studying bird communities in Peru with scientists from Oxford University and Conservation International.

After graduating, Gabriel went on to do a PhD with Professor Claire Spottiswoode at University of Cambridge conducting fieldwork in Zambia to study mimicry and speciation in the brood-parasitic Vidua finches (indigobirds and whydahs), funded by The Leverhulme Trust. As part of this work he developed a new conceptual framework for understanding how mimicry is conceived and categorised in the natural world. His research on mimicry in the Vidua finches was published in the journal Evolution where it was featured on the front cover and was awarded the Society for the Study of Evolution President’s Award for Outstanding Paper published in Evolution. The research was also featured in a recent BBC and Netflix documentary, Attenborough’s Life in Colour, for which Gabriel was a scientific consultant during the filming which took place at the field site in Choma.

Gabriel went on to take up a BBSRC-funded post-doctoral research associate position at the University of Cambridge where his work has focussed on the brood-parasitic Cuckoo Finch (Anomalospiza imberbis) and its Tawny-flanked Prinia (Prinia subflava) hosts. Prinias have evolved incredibly diverse eggs which vary dramatically in colour and pattern between individuals. In collaboration with Professor Michael Sorenson of Boston University and Professor Claire Spottiswoode of Cambridge/University of Cape Town, Gabriel is currently investigating the genetic basis of this diversity and the consequences of this genetic architecture for the co-evolutionary trajectories in the ongoing arms race between prinias and their Cuckoo Finch parasites. More generally he is researching the evolution of polymorphisms across species radiations as explored in a recent article co-written with Dr Joana Meier in Trends in Ecology and Evolution. This paper was selected as the Trends Editor’s Pick and featured on the front cover.

In 2021, Gabriel was awarded a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellowship allowing him to build on his previous work with Professor Claire Spottiswoode and Dr Joana Meier to extend his investigations into the origins and evolution of polymorphisms beyond single species in order to understand their dynamics across species radiations. To explore these concepts, Gabriel is using the avian family Cisticolidae, and in particular the genus Cisticola, as a model system to investigate the evolution of polymorphisms across a species-rich African radiation.

Gabriel is a passionate field biologist and has been involved in ornithological expeditions around the world to study poorly-known species and understudied habitats with a particular focus on African biodiversity. He is a Research Associate at the FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town. His passion for birds has led him to do fieldwork across Africa including Zambia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Mozambique, Ghana, Nambia, South Africa and Madagascar. In November 2016, Gabriel was part of an expedition to the Njesi Plateau in northern Mozambique with researchers from BINCO. Together with Sam Jones, they discovered new populations of the highly endangered Mozambican Tailorbird (Artisornis sousae) and Dapplethroat (Modulatrix orostruthus) as well as finding two species previously unrecorded from Mozambique (Download here).”

Peer-reviewed Publications

Lund, J., Dixit, T., Attwood, M. C., Hamama, S., Moya, C., Stevens, M., Jamie, G.A. and Spottiswoode, C. N. 2023. When perfection isn't enough: host egg signatures are an effective defence against high-fidelity African cuckoo mimicry. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 290(2003). doi: 10.1098/rspb.2023.1125

McClelland, S.C., Attard, M.R.G., Bowen, J, Horrocks, N.P.C., Jamie, G.A., Dixit, T., Spottiswoode, C.N., Portugal, S.J., 2023. Eggshell composition and surface properties of avian brood-parasitic species compared with non-parasitic species. R. Soc. Open Sci. 10: 221023. https://doi.org/10.1098/rsos.221023

Spottiswoode, C.N., Tong, W., Jamie, G.A., Stryjewski, K.F., DaCosta, J., Kuras, E., Green, A., Hamama, S., Taylor, I.G., Moya, C. and Sorenson, M.D. 2022 Genetic architecture facilitates then constrains adaptation in a host-parasite coevolutionary arms race. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 119: e2121752119. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2121752119

Jamie, G.A., Hamama, S., Moya, C., Kilner, R.M. and Spottiswoode, C.N. 2021 The limits of host colonisation and speciation in a radiation of parasitic finches. Behavioral Ecology 32: 529-538 https://doi.org/10.1093/beheco/araa155 (Open access)

Jamie, G.A., Van Belleghem, S., Hogan, B., Hamama, S., Moya, C., Troscianko, J., Stoddard, M.C., Kilner, R.M. and Spottiswoode, C.N. 2020 Multimodal mimicry of hosts in a radiation of parasitic finches. Evolution 74: 2526-2538. https://doi.org/10.1111/evo.14057  (Open access). Read a digest piece on this research by Bosque et al.  

Jamie, G.A. and J. I. Meier. 2020. The persistence of polymorphisms across species radiations. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 35: 795-808, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tree.2020.04.007

Jones, S.E.*, Jamie, G.A.*, Sumbane, M. and Jocque, M. 2020 The avifauna, conservation and biogeography of the Njesi Highlands in northern Mozambique, with a review of the country’s Afromontane birdlife. Ostrich 91: 45-56. https://doi.org/10.2989/00306525.2019.1675795

McClelland, S.C., Jamie, G.A., Waters, K., Caldas, L., Spottiswoode, C.N. and Portugal, S.J. 2019 Convergent evolution of reduced eggshell conductance in avian brood parasites. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B374: 20180194. 70. https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2018.0194

Jamie, G.A. 2017 Signals, cues and the nature of mimicry. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 284: 20162080. htps://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2016.2080

Péron, G., Altwegg, R., Jamie, G.A. and Spottiswoode, C.N. 2016 Coupled range dynamics of brood parasites and their hosts responding to climate and vegetation changes. Journal of Animal Ecology 85: 1191–1199. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.12546 

Jamie, G.A. and de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. 2014 Similarity of the calls of juvenile Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus and its Sri Lankan host species, Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides affinis. Forktail 30: 133-134.

Briscoe, A.D., Macias-Muñoz, A., Kozak, K.M., Walters, J.R., Yuan, F., Jamie, G.A., Martin, S.H., Dasmahapatra, K.K., Ferguson, L.C., Mallet, J., Jacquin-Joly, E., and Jiggins, C.D. 2013 Female behaviour drives expression and evolution of gustatory receptors in butterflies. PLOS Genetics 9: e1003620. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.103620

Nichols, H.L., Jordan, N., Jamie, G.A., Cant, M. and Hoffman, J.I. 2012 Fine-scale spatiotemporal patterns of genetic variation reflect budding dispersal coupled with strong natal philopatry in a cooperatively breeding mammal. Molecular Ecology 21: 5348-5362. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.12015

Lawson, A.J., Hindley, G.F., Forshew, T., Tatevossian, R.G., Jamie, G.A., Kelly, G.P., Neale, G.A., Ma, J.G., Jones, T.A., Ellison, D.W. and Sheer, D. 2011 RAF gene fusion breakpoints in pediatric brain tumors are characterized by significant enrichment of sequence microhomology. Genome Research 21: 505–514. http://www.genome.org.cgi/doi/10.1101/gr.115782.110

Book chapters

Jamie, G.A. and Kilner, R.M. 2017 Begging call mimicry by brood parasite nestlings: adaptation, manipulation and development. In: Avian Brood Parasitism edited by Manuel Soler, Springer Publishing Company.

Other articles

Jamie, G. 2021. Big little liars: Parasitism, mimicry and speciation in the indigobirds and whydahs of Africa. African Birdlife 9(2): 34-41. Download PDF

Bryan, K.M. and Jamie, G.A. 2019 Little Bee-eater Merops pusillus feeding two Greater Honeyguide Indicator indicator fledglings in Botswana. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 26: 101-102. Download PDF

Jones, S. E. I. and Jamie, G.A. 2017 Avifauna of the Njesi Plateau, Niassa, Mozambique in The Njesi Plateau Expedition Report, Biodiversity Express Survey 6.1 by Jones, S. E. I. and Clause, J. and Geeraert, L., Jamie, G. A. and Sumbane, E. and van Berkel, T. and Jocqué, M. Download PDF

Jamie, G.A. 2016 Locust Finches (Paludipasser locustella) breeding in Choma District, Southern Province. The Wattled Crane 46(4): 3–6. Download PDF

Jamie, G.A. and de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. 2016 Mimicry of Sri Lanka Crested Drongo Dicrurus lophorinus by Fork-tailed Drongo Cuckoo Surniculus dicruroides. BirdingASIA 25: 82–83.

Jamie, G.A., Moya, C. and Hamusikili, L. 2016 Incubation and nest-defence behaviour of Streaky-breasted Flufftail Sarothrura boehmi in Zambia. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 23: 82–85.

Jamie, G.A. and de Silva Wijeyeratne, G. 2014 Similarity of the calls of juvenile Pied Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus and its Sri Lankan host species, Yellow-billed Babbler Turdoides affinis. Forktail 30: 133-134

Sevillano Rios, S., Jamie, G.A., Vidos, J.Q., Slongo, H. 2013 Black Bushbird in Bahuaja-Sonene National Park, Peru – the most southerly record and a first for the Department of Puno. Cotinga

Sevillano Rios, S. and Jamie, G.A. 2012 Avian mist-netting report from Cerro Cuchilla, Bahuaja-Sonene National Park. RAP Working Papers.

Jamie, G.A. 2008 An Eastern Savi’s Warbler in Romania. Dartford Ringing Journal.

Jamie, G.A. 2007 A Romanian Bird Diary. Dartford Ringing Journal.