Kaylah de Jager
Masters by Research in Ecology on Have Mobile Ear Pinnae Evolved as Sunshades to Improved Predator Detection?
3rd Floor ECW Building
My project focuses on the role that ears play in shading the eyes of southern African antelope species, predominantly the impala (Aepyceros melampus) and kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), in the Kruger National Park, South Africa.  We hypothesise that shading the eyes improves predator detection and thus the ears serve multiple functions, rather than just for hearing.
  • Identify whether species of antelope use their ears to shade their eyes against the sun, as well as identifying if the reason for this is due to the antelope occupying varied habitats.
  • Identify whether larger antelope species shade their eyes less often due to lower predation risk compared to smaller antelope species.

To identify whether mobile ears shaded the individuals eyes in either of the habitats, I used a handheld Samsung HMX-H400BP video camera to record the number of seconds each individual shaded their eyes for in the different habitats.  Antelopes of varying sizes are found in different habitats and were recorded in the same manner.  This was achieved by recording individuals no further than 50m from my stationary vehicle. 


Through my research, the aim is to discover which factors drive the antelope to shade their eyes against the sun by using a generalised linear model.  This research is important, as there is limited knowledge on shading and how it could affect anti-predator behaviour studies in the future.

My BSc Zoology with Marine Zoology with International Experience allowed me to complete a research project in the Netherlands determining gene expression in the Chinese soft-shelled turtle (Pelodiscus sinensis).  While my university dissertation focused on the genetic hybridisation within three different species of Mohave rattlesnakes in Arizona to measure toxicity of venoms.  In September 2015, I began my postgraduate studies at Bangor University by conducting a field experiment in South Africa for my MRes degree.  The aim of this study is to determine whether shading occurs due to large mobile ear pinnae through looking at the biological and ecological factors of the antelope species from Southern Africa.

2013-2014: Leiden University, Research Internship in Genetic Expression in the limbs of the Chinese soft-shelled turtle, 10 months.

Skills: Embryo stage identification, embryo dissection, genetic staining and practical laboratory techniques (pipetting, PCR, in situ hybridisation, microscope photography).

2011-2015: Bangor University BSc Zoology with Marine Zoology with International Experience, Second Class Honours (Upper Division 2:1).

Skills: Genetic programming analysis, report writing, data collaboration and time management.


For further information, you can follow me on LinkedIn and ResearchGate.