Whether a prey animal hides, flees or counterattacks when faced with an approaching predator influences myriad aspects of its behaviour, ecology and even psychology. It therefore is not surprising that our early observations of coyotes hunting mule deer and white-tailed deer led my students and me in these different directions.
Ecology: Prey behaviour and predator-prey relationships.
We still conduct work on the influence of prey behaviour and predator-prey relationships, relying on exceptional observation conditions at our main study site on the prairie grasslands of southern Alberta.
Behaviour: Inter-species hybridization and transmission of disease:
We are beginning a new project that investigates conditions that facilitates or prevents hybridization between white-tailed deer and mule deer, two species that are able to interbreed and produce fertile hybrid. When conducting this work, we plan to conduct detailed observations of mating tactics and other social interactions that may help to understand variation in the transmission of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a fatal prion disease spreading across North American deer.
Psychology: Evolutionary continuity in infant cries and caregiver responses.
Another major focus of the lab is the evolutionary continuity in newborn cries and adult responses to these cries. Our recent discovery that deer mothers respond to newborn cries of diverse species of mammals suggests suggest that a response to infant cues of a different species is not uniquely human, but may instead be the result of sensory mechanisms shared across mammals through tens or hundreds of millions of years of evolution.
We currently plan to extend this work from deer to humans and other animals, but first need to raise funding to support a postdoctoral fellow to begin this research. The planned work has many applications such as using features of infant cries to diagnose health conditions and facilitate care-giving in humans and animals, designing the sound environment to relieve stress on animals living in captivity, and informed use of infant cries and surrogate mothers to promote fostering of orphaned animals.
Dr. Susan Lingle
Department of Biology
The University of Winnipeg
515 Portage Ave.
Winnipeg, MB R3B 2E9 Canada
Tel: (204) 258-2964
For updates, see our facebook page:
Twitter: team mule deer @linglelab
Maegwin's paper is out! Open Access Journal Ecology and Evolution: The effect of terrain and female density on survival of neonatal white-tailed and mule deer fawns.
Prairie Field Course 2016: See photos from the recent field course "Behavioural Ecology and the Prairie Grasslands" on our lab's facebook page.
March 2016: Congratulations to MSc student Kelsey Saboraki on receiving an Alberta Conservation Association (ACA) Challenge Grant in Biodiversity for her research into behavioural mechanisms of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) transmission in deer.
Thank you very much ACA!
Congratulations to lab alum Maegwin Bonar on receiving an NSERC for her MSc research in Newfoundland.
Listen to the CBC Quirks and Quarks interview following our recent publication "Deer mothers are sensitive to newborn cries of diverse mammalian species": http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/2014/09/27/2014-09-27-3