Dr. Margaux Rat

Margaux Rat


Dr. Margaux E. Rat
Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology
DST-NRF centre of Excellence
University of Cape Town
Rondebosch, 7701
South Africa

Email: margaux.rat@uct.ac.za

Tel: + 27 21 650 33 10
Fax: + 21 27 650 32 95



Margaux Rat obtained her Master degree in Ecology Evolution Biometry from the Université Claude Bernard in Lyon, France (2010). Thanks to an exchange program, she had the chance to achieve her first year of Master at Queen's University in Canada. Margaux's Master thesis focused on sexual selection, precisely she investigated whether female palmate newts assessed multiple male traits to choose their mate. Margaux refined her research interests on the evolution of sociality and moved to South Africa to obtain her PhD thesis from the University of Cape Town in 2015. She conducted her PhD thesis with the Sociable Weaver Project where she studied dominance, cooperation and social organization in the complex cooperative societies of sociable weavers. She recently joined the Hot Birds Project as a Postdoctoral fellow 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 rely on collaborations with Dr. Susan Cunningham, Prof. Andrew McKechnie and Prof. Cedric 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). My research interests reside mainly in understanding why is group-living so common in biological systems i.e. why complex, cooperative societies have evolved and how they are maintained.
Precisely, I study what are the factors which shape interactions between individuals and how do they influence groups social dynamic and individual behaviour. For instance, during the course of my PhD, I have 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.  

Key publications

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

Acker P., Grégoire A., Rat M., Spottiswoode C. N., Dijk R., Paquet M., Kaden J. C., Pradel R., Hatchwell B. J., Covas R. (2015), Disruptive viability selection on a black plumage trait associated with dominance. Journal of Evolutionary Biology

Boucherie P., Dufour V., Rat M., Doutrelant C., Mariette M., Heeb P., 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,