Current Research

My research interests are primarily in avian behavioral and evolutionary ecology, including the population genetics/genomics of brood parasitic birds, species that reproduce only by parasitizing the parental care behavior of other species. Past work has focused on the brood parasitic indigobirds (Vidua spp.) of Africa, in which learning and mimicry of host songs facilitate an evolutionary process of speciation by host shift, and on the speciation genomics of a group of 13 Lonchura munia species in Papua New Guinea and northern Australia that represent an extraordinary example of rapid evolutionary diversification. In collaboration with colleagues, I have also recently examined the genetic basis of host specific adaptation in several different groups of parasitic birds. Current research includes analyses of the consequences of maternally inherited adaptation for patterns of molecular evolution and a comparative genomics analysis of the loss of parental care across all seven avian lineages in which obligate brood parasitism evolved.

Selected Publications

  • Spottiswoode CN, Tong W, Jamie GA, Stryjewski KF, DaCosta JM, Kuras ER, Green A, Hamama S, Taylor IG, Moya C, Sorenson MD (2022) Genetic architecture facilitates then constrains adaptation in a host-parasite coevolutionary arms race. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science USA 119: e2121752119.
  • Stryjewski KF, Sorenson MD (2017) Mosaic genome evolution in a recent and rapid avian radiation. Nature Ecology and Evolution 1, 1912-1922.
  • Fossøy F, Sorenson MD, Liang W, Ekrem T, Moksnes A, Møller AP, Rutila J, Røskaft E, Takasu F, Yang C, Stokke BG (2016) Ancient origin and maternal inheritance of blue cuckoo eggs. Nature Communications 7, 10272.
  • 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.
  • Balakrishnan CN, Sefc KM, Sorenson MD (2009) Incomplete reproductive isolation following host shift in brood parasitic indigobirdsProceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B 276, 219-228.
  • Sorenson MD, Balakrishnan CN, Payne RB (2004) Clade-limited colonization in brood parasitic finches (Vidua spp.). Systematic Biology 53, 140-153.
  • Sorenson MD, Sefc KM, Payne RB (2003) Speciation by host switch in brood parasitic indigobirds. Nature 424, 928-931.
  • Sorenson MD, Payne RB (2001) A single ancient origin of brood parasitism in African finches: implications for host-parasite coevolution. Evolution 55, 2550-2567.

Courses Taught:

  • 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

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