Claire Doutrelant

 Claire Doutrelant cd

Tenure CNRS research scientist (DR)

CEFE CNRS 1919 Rte de Mende, 34293 Montpellier

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My research is centered in the theoretical framework of evolutionary ecology, population biology and behavioural ecology. My projects aim at understanding life history variation in order to determine the adaptive and evolutionary processes that explain and maintain animal diversity. I´m particularly interested by three kinds of life history traits linked to behavior: cooperation, animal communication and maternal invesment. I'm mainly using birds as biological models. I'm mainly using empirical methods, including large-scale experiments and analyses of long-term data sets on different populations of passerine birds in the field.

I'm currently working on four main projects. 1) Evolution of colour ormentation in birds (with a special focus on female coloration and blue tits) 2) the cause and life history traits consequences of cooperation in sociable weavers ; 3) Sexual and social evolution on islands, and 4) the evolution of weaver nests. I'm also part of  the art-science project Obô.

1 - Evolution of ornementation in birds


 Photos: Claire Doutrelant

Team: Arnaud GREGOIRE (Lecturer, Univ Montpellier), Amélie FARGEVIEILLE (post Doc), David LóPEZ-IDIáQUEZ (Post doc), Lisa SANDMEYER (PhD Student)

Collaborations: Anne CHARMANTIER (CEFE),  Denis REALE (UQUAM, Canada), Céline TEPLITSKY (CEFE), Doris GOMEZ (CEFE),   Julien RENOULT (CEFE),  RIta COVAS (CIBIO Portugal, FizPatrick Institute SA); Maria DEL REY (spectrophotometric measurements), Christophe de FRANCESCHI (field work and data base management), Samuel PERRET (Field work and Patch measurements), Annick LUCAS (Field work and Patch measurements), Pablo GIOVANNINI (Field work)

* Evolution of female colour ornementation

In this project we use a combination of empirical and comparative approaches to address three fundamental questions on sexual and social selection in both monomorphic species and dimorphic species in which females present conspicuous traits. Our questions are the following (i) Are female conspicuous traits under sexual /social selection ? (ii) Do female conspicuous traits reflect female quality and which mechanisms maintain signal honesty? (iii) What are the population consequences of female signalling and mutual sexual selection.

Examples of publications (full list below)

Fargevieille, A., Grégoire, A., Gomez, D. & Doutrelant, C. 2023 Evolution of female color in birds: the role of paternal care and female reproductive costs. Journal of evolutionary ecology. 36(3), 579-588

Doutrelant, C., Fargevieille, A., Grégoire, A.  2020. Evolution of female coloration: what have we learned from birds in general and blue tits in particular. Adv. Study in Behaviour  PDF


 Photo Claire Doutrelant

 * Evolution of plumage ornement in space and time

Selection often varies in space and time and long-term research that spans broad spatial scales is needed to understand the factors driving phenotypic variation and to assess the links between traits and fitness.  To assess the importance of spatiotemporal variation  and its consequences on selection estimates, we collected data on two study systems: (i) the blue tit (yellow and UV-blue colorations measured by spectrophotometry since 2005, 600 birds measured each year); (ii) the  size of the sociable weaver melanin patch  since 2010 (the bib patch is photographied each year on 400 individuals)

Examples of publications (full list below)

 Lopez-Idiaquez, D.; Teplitsky, C.; Grégoire, A.; Fargevieille, F.; del Rey, M.; de Franceschi, C.; Charmantier, A.; Doutrelant, C. 2022. Long-term decrease in colouration: a consequence of climate change? American Naturalist   

Fargevieille, A., Grégoire, A., Charmantier, A., Rey Granado, M., Doutrelant, C. 2017. Assortative mating by colored ornaments in blue tits: space and time matter Ecology Evolution. 7 2069-2078  PDF

 Acker, P., Grégoire, A.., Rat, M., Spottiswoode C. N., van Dijk, R. E., Paquet, M., Kaden, J.C., Pradel R. , Hatchwell, B. J. , Covas, R.*, Doutrelant, C.* 2015. Disruptive viability selection on a black plumage trait associated with dominance Jounal of Evolutionary Biology 28: 2027-2041  PDF

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Dominance interaction -  Photo Franck Théron


2 - Evolution and consequences of cooperation

 *TEAM: Co Pi: Rita COVAS (; CIBIO, Portugal), André FERREIRA (Univ. Zurich), Franck THERON (data base managmer and field), Liliana SILVA (video manager and machine Learning methods) Jorge Garcia Campa (Post doc),  Gabriel Munar (Postdoc), Babette FOURIE (PhD Student), Nicolas  SILVA (PhD Student), Marta MARMELO (PhD Student); , Fanny RYBAK (Univ Orsay, FR),

*Collaboration:  Matthieu PAQUET (Swenden), Bruno FAIVRE (Univ. Dijon, FR), François CRISCUOLO & Sandrine ZAHN (Univ Strasbourg, FR),  Julien Renoult (CEFE, FR)


The project aims at understanding the fitness bases of cooperation and the consequences of cooperation for population dynamics through its effects on reproductive output, survival and dispersal. Our study model is an endemic passerine bird from southern African passerine. This bird is a cooperative breeder. In cooperatively breeding species, mature individuals called ‘helpers’ assist the breeding pairs by bringing additional food to the nest.  We work on the evolution of different cooperative behaviours – cooperative breeding, nest building and predator mobbing and on the relationship between cooperation, fitness, dispersal and long-term population dynamics.

Currently our project has two main aims: (i) determining whether sexual or social selection play a role in the evolution of cooperation and thus the role of partner choice ; (ii) determining  how presence / absence of co-operators affects maternal effects and parental investments

This project is suppported by the PercyFizpatric Institute of the University of Cape Town & the INEE - CNRS: Long-term Studies in Ecology and Evolution (SEE-Life)

Examples of publications (full list below)

D'Amelio, P.; Ferreira, A.; Fortuna, R.; Paquet, M.; Silva, L. ; Theron, F.; Doutrelant, C.; Covas, R. 2022. Disentangling climatic and nest predator impact on reproductive output reveals adverse high temperature effects regardless of helper number in an arid-region cooperative bird Ecology Letter 25(1), 151-162

Covas, R., Lardy, S.; Silva, L.; Rey, B.; Ferreira, A. C.; Théron, F.; Tognetti, A.; Faivre, B. Doutrelant, C. 2022. The oxidative cost of helping and its minimisation in a cooperative breeder Behavioural Ecology 33(3), 504-517

Fortuna, R. Paquet, M., Ferreira, A.C; Silva, L Theron, F & Doutrelant, C & Covas, R 2021 Maternal allocation in relation to weather, predation and social factors in a colonial cooperative bird Journal of Animal ecology 90, 1122-1133.

Ferreira, A., Silva, L., Renna, F., Brandl, H. B., Renoult, J., Farine, D., Covas, R. & Doutelant, C.  2020 Deep learning based methods for individual recognition in small birds.  Method in Ecol Evol PDF

Covas, R. & Doutrelant, C.* 2019. Testing the sexual and social benefits of cooperation in animals. Trends Ecol Evol In press. * Both authors contributed equally to the manuscript PDF

tisserins Photos: Claire Doutrelant

  3- Evolution on islands

TEAM:  Rita Covas (CIBIO, Portugal), FitzPatrick Institute, Univ Cape Town), Martim Melo (CIBIO),  Claire Loiseau ( Univ Montpellier), Ana Leitao (Post doc ); Raquel Ponti (Post doc)


Islands are unique ecosystems sharing a distinctive set of characteristics that make them particularly interesting to study adaptation by organisms. The isolation and reduced area of islands result in simplified ecological ecosystems and an impoverished fauna that are expected to lead to convergent patterns of adaptation (the ‘insularity syndrome’). Our aim is to establish, using comparative work , whether island birds worldwide display such convergent shift for ornamentation, songs, behaviour and morphology. Then we aim at determining which factors lead to those changes and are particularly interested by the role of parasitism and interspecific competition. We worked on data collected in natural history museum and in the field (Sao Tome, Madeira, Gabon, Cameroun).

Examples of publications (full list below)

Ponti, R., Doutrelant, C., & Covas, R. (2023). Strength of the ‘island rule’in birds is positively associated with absence of avian predators. Biology Letters, 19(3), 20220536

Barthe, M., Doutrelant, C., Covas, R., Melo, M., Illera, J. C., Tilak, M. K., ... & Nabholz, B. (2022). Evolution of immune genes in island birds: reduction in population sizes can explain island syndrome. Peer Community Journal, 2.

Robert, A., Melo, M., Lengagne, T.,. Julien, S..& Doutrelant, C. 2021 Patterns of bird song evolution on islands support the character release hypothesis in tropical but not in temperate latitudes. Journal of Evolutionary Biology34(10), 1580-1591

Bliard, L., Robert, A. Paquet, M, Renoult, J., Grégoire, A., Crochet, P.A. Covas, R & Doutrelant, C. 2020 Examining the link between relaxed predation and bird colouration on islands.  Biol Lett PDF

Robert, A., Lengagne, T., Melo, M., Julien, S.., Gardette, V. Covas, R. & Doutrelant, C. 2019. The Theory of Island Biogeography and Soundscapes: species diversity and the organization of acoustic communities. J. Biogeography PDF

Doutrelant, C., Paquet, Renoult, J. M. Grégoire, A., Crochet, P.A. Covas, R. 2016 Worldwide patterns of bird colouration on islands. Ecology Letter  19: 537–545 PDF

 Photos: Claire Doutrelant & Martim Melo

 4 - Weaver nest as an extended phenotype

Team : Rita Covas (CIBIO, Portugal), FitzPatrick Institute, Univ Cape Town), Julien Renoult (CEFE), Erwan Harscouet (phD CEFE),  Dieter Oschadleus (Univ. Cape Town) , Staffan Andersson (Univ.  Gothenburg), Fanny Rybak (Univ. Paris Sud), Doris Gomez (CEFE), Paul Dufour (Univ. Grenoble), Pietro d'Amelio (Post doc)

Our aim is to work on one of the most spectacular and diverse radiations of extended phenotypes, the intricate and complex nest architectures of weaverbirds (family Ploceidae, 117 species in 16 genera), varying from the exquisite lace-like Malimbus nests to the rough thatch of the communally built sociable weaver nests . Our central aim is to investigate the role of sexual selection on the evolution and diversification of i) nest architecture (the extended phenotype) and ii) nest building behaviour (a potential associated display) and, for both traits, to determine how they relate to the classic ornaments in this group – striking colours, songs, and flight displays.


5-Long term monitoring of blue tit (worked initiated by Jacques Blondel in 1976)

Researchers: Jacques Blondel, Samuel Caro, Anne Charmantier, Claire Doutrelant,, Christophe de Francheschi,  Pablo Giovannini, Arnaud Grégoire, Marcel Lambrechts, Annick Lucas, Samuel Perret,  Philippe Perret, Denis Réale (Canada), Céline Téplltsky

This program  is supported but the INEE - CNRS: Long-term Studies in Ecology and  Evolution (SEE-Life)   &


mesange Photos Claire Doutrelant

 6 - Obô, an art science projet

An art science project with Claire Loiseau, Martim Melo, Hélène Fromen & Maya Cylarem

Project funded by Biopolis with the help of the CNRS, CEFE. A first sponsor: Ornithomedia


Poster by Maya Cyclarem & Ayline Le Sourd

7- Short CV

  • 2019 DR CNRS reasearcher & Team leader  with D. Gomez: E3co: Empirical Evolutionary Ecology, Communication and Cooperation
  • 2014-15: Invited researcher Cape Town University. Fitzpatrick Institute  (South Africa)
  • 2011 Autorisation à Expérimenter niv. 1
  • 2009 HDR
  • 2003 Invited researcher at Yale University (USA)
  • 2001-2004 CR CNRS researcher at Brunoy (CNRS, MNHN, UMR 5176)
  • 2000-2001 Post-doc : Univ. Cap Town (SA), Dir. Morné du Plessis
  • 1999-2000 Post-doc : Univ. Copenhagen (Danemark), Dir. Peter McGregor
  • 1995-1998 Ph D Univ Paris 6. Dir. Marcel Lambrechts


8 - Publications

update list:

Do not hesitate to ask for reprint !

9 - Funding

Investigatrice principale (PI)

* 2020-2024        ANR Extended phenotype.The evolution of extended phenotypes and associated signals in animals: weaverbirds’ nests and sexual selection as a case study?  With R Covas (CIBIO, Univ Porto, F Rybak (Univ Paris Sud), Julien Renoult

* 2018-2019        CEMEB Montpellier Explanatory Research Project Relaxed selection at immunity genes in insular populations ? A test using a population genomics approach With B Naboltz R Covas, M Melo, C. Loiseau

* 2018- ..             OSU OREME Suivi de la phénologie de reproduction du Républicain Social.

* 2015-2019       ANR défis de tous les savoir Can cooperation be under social or sexual selection?   With R Covas (CIBIO, Univ Porto, B Faivre (Univ Dijon), F Rybak (Univ Paris Sud)

* 2016-2018                 PEPS CNRS INEE Paysage Rôle de la compétition interspécifique dans la structuration des paysages acoustiques .  With A Robert (Phd), M Melo (Univ Porto), T Lengagne (CNRS, Lyon).

* 2012-2015         Bourse chercheur d'avenir Région Languedoc Roussillon Sélection sexuelle femelle chez les oiseaux : réalité, origine et conséquences populationnelles - With Arnaud Grégoire, Doris Gomez, Anne Charmantier

* 2009-2013         ANR JCJCSélection sexuelle, sociale et évolution des ornements femelles. With Arnaud Grégoire, Doris Gomez, Anne Charmantier, B. Doligez

Co Pi

* 2020-2025         ERC Consolidator COOPERATIVE PARTNER. Pi R Covas

* 2016-2018         Portuguese Science and Technology Foundation (FCT) - Direct benefits of cooperation. PI Rita Covas

* 2013-2016         Programme Européen Marie Curie-IRSES Cooperation. Pi Rita Covas. coPI C. Doutrelant, B. Hatchwell,

* 2013-2015         FCT + National geographic:Parasite pressure, immunity and sexual ornaments in island and mainland birds.

* 2010-2013         FCT Maternal effects and cooperation Pi Rita Covas,

* 2010- ..             OSU OREME. Suivi de la phénologie de reproduction de la mésange bleue. co Pi A. Charmantier C. Doutrelant, A. Grégoire, M. Lambrechts, C. Téplitsky

* 2008 – …         Centre of Excellence FitzPatrick Institute (Af du Sud): Cooperative breeding in sociable weavers Co Pi Rita Covas C. Doutrelant


• Post Doc

2024-2026 Sophie Dupont. Telomere and survival under normal condition and after an extreme fire event. Biopolis Felllowship

2024-2026 Jorge Garcia Campa. Mate choice and cooperation. Employed by ERC grant

2024-2026 Gabriel Munar. Social network and fitness. Employed by ERC grant

2020-2022: David López-Idiáquez   Multiple signalling in birds .  Basque Fellowship

2018-2022: Pietro d'amelio.  Mate choice of a socially monogamous, dull colored, cooperatively breeding species, the Sociable Weaver: Assessing the role of social behavior, morphology, past reproductive success and black color patches  Co direction with R. Covas and Fanny Rybak. ANR (2018), Claude Leon Fellowship (2019-21), Marie Curie Fellowship (2021-2022)

2017- 2018: Nora Carlson.  Effet de l'audience sur la coopération. Co direction avec R. Covas et F. Rybak

2016- 2017: Marie Holveck.  Vision dans le noir et évolution de la coloration des oeufs. Co direction avec A Grégoire et D. Gomez

2014-2017: Sophie Lardy. The physiological cost of cooperation. Co direction avec R. Covas

2013-2015: Elisa Lotabo. The evolution of host-parasite interactions on islands and implications for sexual selection .Co direction avec R. Covas

2011-2012. Doris Gomez. Conséquences de la sélection sexuelle femelle sur la dynamique des métapopulations. Financement ANR FEM SEX POP

2009-2010. Marie Holveck. Sélection sexuelle et coloration des œufs. La mésange bleue comme cas d'étude. Financement Univ. Montpellier II, ASAB, ANR FEM SEX POP. Co encadrement avec A. Grégoire

 • PHD

2023-2027. Marta Marmelo (Univ Porto & Montpellier) cooperative personalities. Co-supervision with R. Covas

2023-2027. Babette Fourie (Univ Porto & Montpellier) Social network and benefits of coperation. Co-supervision with R. Covas & A Ferreira

2022-2025. Lisa Sandmeyer (Univ Montpellier) Bird ornementation and social and environemental variation. Co-supervision with A. Grégoire é David Lopez-Idiaquez

2020-2024. Nicolas Silva (Univ Montpellier) Sexual selection in a monogamous dull species. Co-supervision with R. Covas

2020-2024. Erwan Harscouet (Univ Montpellier) Weaver nests as an extended phenotype. Co-supervision with R. Covas, J Renoult

2017-2020. Rita Foruna. (Univ. Porto) Prenatal maternal effects and its consequences for offspring, parents and helpers fitness in a cooperatively breeding species. Co-supervision with R. Covas and Matthieu Paquet

2017-2020. André Ferreria. (Univ. de Montpellier) Social, sexual selection and coopration . Co-supervision with R. Covas

2015-2018. Alois Robert. (Univ Montpellier). Evolution des signaux colorés et acoustiques au sein des ommunautés d'oiseaux Co-supervision with D. Gomez

2013-2016. Amélie Fargeveille. (Univ Montpellier). Choix de partenaire et évolution des signaux femelles Co-supervision with A. Grégoire

2011-2014. Margaux Rat. (Univ. du Cap Af du Sud). Dominance, coopération et sélection sexuelle chez le Tisserin social. Co-supervision with R. Covas & Rene Van Dijk

2010-2013. Matthieu Paquet. (Univ. Montpellier). Effets maternels et reproduction coopérative chez le Tisserin social. Co-supervision with R. Covas

2007-2010 : Afiwa Midamegbe. (Univ. Montpellier). Les signaux femelles chez la Mésange bleue: des signaux sexuels secondaire ? Co-supervision with A. Grégoire


 Sociable weavers :

  • Jeanne Bourdier - Sciences et Avenir- 2020-Une intelligence artificielle capable de différencier les oiseaux au sein d’une même espèce PDF sciences et avenir

Passerault M. (2016) Le plus gros nid du monde abrite un oiseau colonial à reproduction coopérative, le Républicain social Philetairus socius. Le LIROU Revue du Groupe Ornithologique des Deux-Sèvres, n°34 : p48-52. PDF

Pagnon, T. 2018 La cité des républicains Espèce Numero 30: 38-47 PDF

Evolution on islands:



 IMG 2145


 I'm always looking for motivated students and post doc to build / work on project! Do not hesitate to contact me with a CV to share your interest!