Doctoral students

Carla du Toit

Carla du Toit
BSc (Hons) Cape Town
John Day 5.06




Carla was born and grew up in Johannesburg. Through visiting museums and several game reserves surrounding Gauteng, she developed a passion for dinosaurs which quickly evolved into a love of birds, the only living dinosaurs. She started bird watching on holidays at the age of six, and hasn’t looked down from the sky since. Since starting birding in the highveld, she has continued to pursue the passion across various continents. She spent many hours watching the garden birds in her father’s backyard in the south of England. The highlights of her travels have included three weeks birding in the tropical rainforests of Belize, and visiting remote seabird colonies in the Seychelles.

Her broad interests are in linking morphology to behavioural ecology and palaeoecology. She moved to the Cape for high school, and acquired her Bachelors degree in Genetics and Ecology & Evolution at UCT in 2015. Her love of all things feathered led her to study sociable weavers, and their effect on the surrounding arid Kalahari environment, for her Honours project in 2016 with Dr Rob Thomson and Prof. Mike Cramer (Biological Sciences). The project showed how the small birds were creating islands of fertility around their nests, resulting in unique vegetation patterns. She has finally achieved her childhood dream to combine her love for birds and palaeontology, as her current PhD project is looking at the sensory organs in the bills of African ibises in relation to their feeding ecology, and how these patterns can be used to study the fossil record. She will be looking at the extinct elephant bird from Madagascar, as well as the extinct snipe rail from New Zealand. This project is run through the Fitz and the palaeobiology department at UCT, and is funded by the DST-NRF Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences at Wits. Her supervisors are Dr Susie Cunningham and Prof. Anusuya Chinsamy-Turan. She hopes to continue to work on interdisciplinary studies, and to expand on her current Masters project.


The mechanosensory structures in the bills of Ibises (Family: Threskiornithidae) in relation to their feeding ecology