Postdoctoral Fellows

Dr Margaux Rat

  Dr Margaux Rat
  MSc (Claude Bernard, Lyon);  PhD (UCT)

  John Day Building: 2.20
  Tel: +27 (0)21 650 3310
  Fax: +27 (0)21 6503295


Research summary:

Margaux Rat obtained her Masters degree in Ecology Evolution Biometry from the Université Claude Bernard in Lyon, France (2010). For her Masters thesis, Margaux focused on sexual selection, i.e. she investigated whether female palmate newts assessed multiple male traits to choose their mate. She then moved to South Africa to study for her PhD at the University of Cape Town in and refined her research interests on the evolution of sociality. Margaux studied dominance, cooperation and social organisation in the complex cooperative societies of sociable weavers. Her PhD thesis received the UCT Faculty of Science Purcell Memorial Price 2015 for the best dissertation on a zoological topic submitted at UCT.

Margaux joined the Hot Birds Project as a Postdoctoral fellow in July 2015 to further develop the research on the impacts of climate change on social groups dynamic. Her fellowship is funded jointly by the University of Cape Town and the University of Pretoria and relies on collaborations with Dr Susan Cunningham, Prof. Andrew McKechnie and Prof. Cédric Sueur.

Research interests:

Sociality and cooperation are universal features of life, yet cooperative societies are highly vulnerable to conflicts-of-interests which may lead to societal collapse (i.e. ‘the tragedy of the commons’; Hardin 1968). My research interests reside mainly in understanding why is group-living so common in biological systems and how complex, cooperative societies have evolved and are maintained.  Precisely, I study what are the factors which shape interactions between individuals and how they influence a group’s social dynamic and individual behaviour. For instance, during the course of my PhD, I used social network analyses to test whether dominance acts in concert with kinship to mitigate conflicts and promote cooperation in the societies of sociable weavers. With the Hot Birds Project, I have the opportunity to overlap this research framework with a contemporary challenge faced by any living forms, climate change. Here, I aim to investigate whether environmental variation, particularly, variation in air temperature, may undermine the social structure of group-living birds from arid-environments.

Research programmes:

PhD - See Cooperative Breeding & Sociality in Birds and Sociable Weaver Research Project for more details on the work Margaux realised during her PhD studies.
PostDoc -


Paquet, M, Doutrelant, C., Loubon, M., Theron, F., Rat, M., Covas, R. (2016) Communal roosting, thermoregulatory benefits and breeding group size predictability in cooperatively breeding sociable weavers. Journal of Avian Biology

Rat, M. (2015) Dominance, social organisation and cooperation in the sociable weaver Philetairus socius. PhD thesis, University of Cape Town.

Acker, P. et al. (2015) Disruptive viability selection on a black plumage trait associated with dominance. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 28 2027-2041.

Rat, M., van Dijk, R.E., Covas, R. and Doutrelant, C. (2015) Dominance hierarchies and associated signalling in a cooperative passerine. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 69:437-448.

Boucherie, P., Dufour, V., Rat, M., Doutrelant, C., Mariette, M., Heeb, P. and Bousquet, C. (2015) Application de l’analyse des réseaux sociaux chez les oiseaux. In: Sueur, C. (ed) Analyse des réseaux sociaux appliquée à l’éthologie et l’écologie. Editions Materiologiques, Paris, FR,

Cornuau J., Rat M., Schmeller D.S., Loyau A. (2012). Multiple signals in the palmate newt: ornaments help when courting. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, 66(7), 1045-1055.