Michael D. Sorenson
Professor and Chair of Biology
My research emphasizes molecular genetic approaches to problems in avian systematics, population biology, and behavioral ecology. Avian brood parasitism spurred my interest in evolutionary biology as a student, and parasitic birds have continued to be the focus of much of my work. Current research includes: 1) Analyses of the population structure and evolutionary history of indigobird populations and species. Indigobirds are species-specific brood parasites of a number of estrildid finch hosts and have evolved nestling mouth markings that mimic those of the host. Parasitic nestlings also learn host songs and adult male parasites incorporate these songs into their courtship displays, resulting in assortative mating among parasites reared by the same host species. We are exploring the evolutionary history and population genetic consequences of this unique social system using large multilocus data sets and analyses based on coalescent theory. The work has included recent field work in Cameroon and Tanzania. 2) Molecular systematic analyses of the various groups of avian brood parasites. How many times has obligate brood parasitism evolved in birds, what are the relative ages of the various parasitic lineages, and how is each group of parasitic birds related to their hosts? 3) Molecular systematics and population genetics of the waterfowl (Family Anatidae: the ducks, geese, and swans). Students in my lab have worked on fish, bats, ants, and a variety of other birds, addressing various questions in evolutionary ecology and systematics.
- BI 107 Introductory Biology I
- BI 508 Behavioral Ecology
- BI 515 Population Genetics
- BI 549 Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution
- BI 581/582 Seminar in Biology
- Spottiswoode CN, Stryjewski KF, Quader S, Colebrook-Robjent JFR, Sorenson MD. (2011). Ancient host specificity within a single species of brood parasitic bird. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 43: 17738-17742.
- Sorenson MD, Hauber ME, Derrickson SR. (2010). Sexual imprinting misguides species recognition in a facultative interspecific brood parasite. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 277: 3079-3085.
- McCracken KG, Barger CP, Bulgarella M, Johnson KP, Sonsthagen SA, Trucco J, Valqui TH, Wilson RE, Winker K, Sorenson MD. (2009.) Parallel evolution in the major hemoglobin genes of eight species of Andean waterfowl. Molecular Ecology 18: 3992–4005.
- Balakrishnan CN, Sefc KM, Sorenson MD. (2009.) Incomplete reproductive isolation following host shift in brood parasitic indigobirds. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 276: 219-228.
- Harrigan RJ, Mazza ME, Sorenson MD. (2008.) Computation versus cloning: evaluation of two methods for haplotype determination. Molecular Ecology Resources 8: 1239-1248.
- Njabo KY, Bowie RCK, Sorenson MD. (2008.) Phylogeny, biogeography and taxonomy of the African wattle-eyes (Aves: Passeriformes: Platysteiridae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 48: 136-149.
- Sorenson MD, Sefc KM, Payne RB (2003). Speciation by host switch in brood parasitic indigobirds. Nature 424, 928-931.
- Sorenson MD, Oneal E, Garcia-Moreno J, Mindell DP (2003). More taxa, more characters: The hoatzin problem is still unresolved. Molecular Biology and Evolution 20, 1484-1498.