Photograph of Dr Rupert Marshall.Dr Rupert Marshall

Reader in Animal Behaviour


Office: Z2.05, Edward Llwyd Building
Phone: +44(0)1970 622320
Fax: +44(0)1970 622350
Personal Web Site:


Teaching Areas

  • BR30220 Advanced Animal Behaviour (Module Coordinator)
  • BR32710 Animal Behaviour Field Course (Module Coordinator)
  • BR32330 Dissertation (Module Coordinator)
  • BR24310 Zoo Science (Module Coordinator)
  • BR21620 Ethology
  • BR12210 Molecular Laboratory Skills – (Behaviour Pathway Coordinator)


Member of the Aquatic, Behavioural & Evolutionary Biology Research Group

My research is mainly focused around the following areas:

  • Birdsong: evolution & function
  • Social adaptation: the evolution of song dialects
  • Urban behavioural adaptations
  • Social learning, cooperation & leadership (using guppies)

Bird Song: evolution & function

Much of my research centres around avian communication. Why do birds sing? What response does song elicit in other birds? How & why do songs change over time? I am particularly interested in how signals adapt and change in response to both environmental and sexual selection pressures.

Urban behavioural adaptations

I am investigating how and why animals adapt their behavioural strategies in response to this background noise. For example, some birds sing at a higher pitch in noisy cities than they do in quieter rural areas. I am researching how these behavioural differences emerge, the role that learning plays in reinforcing these differences, and the implications these changes have for conservation and biodiversity.

This research includes the Nestbox Survey, involving regular monitoring of nearly 200 nest boxes in the University woodlands by a team of student volunteers.

Social adaptation: the evolution of song dialects

Animals may adapt their behaviours for a variety of reasons, including the need to “fit in” with their neighbours. For example, songs of corn buntings form a pattern of local dialects. I am investigating the role of social adaptation and dialects in signalling systems and the implications for these systems of changes to farming practice and population decline.

Social learning: information transfer within groups

Animals often learn new behaviours from other individuals, so knowing who to trust and when to go it alone are important decisions. Using the University’s aquarium facilities, I am studying social learning in guppies to investigate how animals decide who to learn from as well as how they actually learn and how much they can learn from one another.  This work also investigates leadership, personality, rational choice and cooperation among individuals and groups.

For further details of my research , please see my personal webpages here.

If you are interested in pursuing research with me as a PhD student or postdoctoral fellow, please contact me at

Staff Links

Additional Interests

Twitter handle: @DrRupertM



Franks, V., Marshall, R.C. 2013. Mechanisms and extent of information transfer in socially foraging guppies, Poecilia reticulata. Animal Behaviour 85 (1) pp. 103-108. 10.1016/j.anbehav.2012.10.013


Mockford, E.J., Marshall, R.C., Dabelsteen, T. 2011. Degradation of rural and urban great tit song: testing transmission efficiency. PLoS One 6 (12) e28242 10.1371/journal.pone.0028242


Anderholm, S., Waldeck, P., Van Der Jeugd, H.P., Marshall, R.C., Larsson, K., Andersson, M. 2009. Colony kin structure and host-parasite relatedness in the barnacle goose. Molecular Ecology 18 (23) pp. 4955-4963. 10.1111/j.1365-294X.2009.04397.x Cadair

Mockford, E.J., Marshall, R.C. 2009. Effects of urban noise on song and response behaviour in great tits. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 276 (1669) pp. 2979-2985. 10.1098/rspb.2009.0586 Cadair Other

Anderholm, S., Marshall, R.C., van der Jeugd, H.P., Waldeck, P., Larsson, K., Andersson, M. 2009. Nest parasitism in the barnacle goose: evidence from protein fingerprinting and microsatellites. Animal Behaviour 78 (1) pp. 167-174. 10.1016/j.anbehav.2009.04.011 Cadair


Marshall, R.C., Buchanan, K.L., Catchpole, C.K. 2007. Song and female choice for extrapair copulations in the sedge warbler, Acrocephalus schoenobaenus. Animal Behaviour 73 (4) pp. 629-635. 10.1016/j.anbehav.2006.06.011 Cadair

Nicholson, J., Buchanan, K., Marshall, R.C., Catchpole, C.K. 2007. Song sharing and repertoire size in the sedge warbler, Acrocephalus schoenobaenus: changes within and between years. Animal Behaviour 74 (5) pp. 1585-1592. 10.1016/j.anbehav.2007.04.006


Marshall, R.C. 2006. One small point. Nature 444 (7118) pp. 422. 10.1038/444422e Cadair