Michelle Roper

Doctor of Philosophy, (Ecology)
Study Completed: 2018
College of Sciences


Thesis Title
Sexual dimorphism of song and life history trade-offs in the New Zealand bellbird.

Read article at Massey Research Online: MRO icon

Female birdsong is understudied in the literature, resulting in a male bias on what we know about birdsong. Ms Roper conducted comparative studies of male and female song in the New Zealand bellbird to obtain a better understanding of female birdsong development, structure and production. She found the sexually distinct songs of each sex developed at a similar rate in juveniles, and adults of both sexes changed their syllable repertoires over time. Sexual variation in the size of their bronchial half rings in the vocal organ, the syrinx, could not explain differences in their song repertoire size. She also demonstrated that bellbirds have flexible life-history traits that enable them to cope with changing breeding conditions. Her research is significant in that it is one of the first to study female song in a wild population and provides important insights into male and female song development, structure and role.

Professor Dianne Brunton
Associate Professor Weihong Ji
Dr Aaron Harmer

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