My main research interests are centered on the signaling function of avian plumage coloration and female mating preferences. It has become clear that male’s gaudy plumage coloration usually has dual functions that can signal dominance towards male competitors and attractiveness towards females. However, the relative importance of each always difficult to evaluate with correlational field approaches. In my PhD work, I have used multiple experimental approaches to investigate the signaling function of plumage coloration in natural environments.
In addition to the functions of plumage coloration, the subject of female mating preference for male genetic quality also intriguing me. One hypothesis is that females choose mates based on genetic compatibility.. I joined Dr. Edwards’ lab in 2010. In collaboration with Drs. Geoffrey Hill (Auburn University) and Miguel Alcaide, we plan to use the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) Class I and II genes to explore female mating preferences and disease resistance in house finches. Ultimately, we hope to understand the relative importance of plumage color, genetic quality and disease in female mating preferences.
Publications (download by clicking pdf-icon):
1. H. W. Yuan, M Liu, and S.F. Shen 2004. Joint Nesting in Taiwan Yuhinas: a rare passerine case. Condor 106:862-872
2. Liu M., L. Siefferman, and G.E. Hill 2007. An experimental test of female choice relative to male structural coloration in eastern bluebirds. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 61:623–630
3. Shawkey M.D., Kosciuch K.L., Liu M., Rowher F.C., Loos E.R., Wang J.M. And S.R. Beissinger 2008. Do birds differentially distribute antimicrobial proteins within clutches of eggs? Behavioral Ecology 19 (4): 920-927
4. Mays H.L., Albrecht T., Liu M. and G.E. Hill 2008. Female choice for genetic complementarity in birds: a review. Genetica 134 (1): 147-158
5. Liu M., Siefferman L., Mays H.L., Steffen J.E. and G.E. Hill 2009. A field test of female mate preference for plumage coloration in eastern bluebirds. Animal Behaviour 78: 879-885
6. Ligon R.A., Liu M., G.E. Hill. 2009 Adoption by a territorial passerine. The Wilson Journal of Ornithology 121(4):830-834.
7. Hill G.E., Siefferman L., Liu M., Hassan H, Unnasch T. The effects of West Nile Virus on the reproductive success and overwinter survival of Eastern Bluebirds in Alabama Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases. March 2010, 10(2): 159-163.
8. Ligon R.A., N. D. Burkett-Cadena, Liu M., G.E. Hill, H. Hassan, T. Unnasch. Short report: Assessing mosquito feeding patterns on nestling and brooding adult birds using microsatellite markers. The American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. In press.
9. Burkett-Cadena N. D., R.A. Ligon., Liu M., Hassan H., G.E. Hill, M.D. Eubanks, T. Unnasch. Vector–Host Interactions in Avian Nests: Do Mosquitoes Prefer Nestlings over Adults? Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 83(2), 2010, pp. 395-399