Echolocation and salivary nest-building in Aerodramus swiftlets
Aerodramus swiftlets are aerial insectivores with a distribution ranging from southern Asia to north-eastern Australia. They are unsual for two reasons: (1) they have the ability to echolocate (a trait only found in two other birds, the Oilbird Steatornis caripensis from South America and Pygmy Swiftlet Collocalia troglodytes from the Philippines) and (2) they can build nests entirely from saliva. The salivary nests are highly prized in East Asian cuisine and are regarded as a culinary delicacy.
In my project, I will focus on uncovering the genes associated with these two unusual traits. In particular, I aim to find out whether the genes involved in echolocation are similar to those used by the Oilbird, and whether the genes involved with salivary nest-building are similar to those expressed in other species which demonstrate excessive saliva production, such as the Grey Jay (Perisoreus canadensis).
2018–present: PhD student, MPIO, Seewiesen, Germany
2010 – 2014: BSc(Hons) in Life Sciences, National University of Singapore, Singapore
2014 – 2018: Research Assistant, Avian Evolution Laboratory, National University of Singapore, Singapore