Rita Covas

Rita Covas

Personal Journey

I grew up in Portugal and studied Biology at the University of Lisbon, but felt attracted to African birds and the immense research possibilities they offered immediately after graduating. After a stint working on seabirds in São Tomé and Principe I moved to South Africa and obtained a PhD from the University of Cape Town in 2002. I did post-doctoral research at the IEB, University of Edinburgh (UK) from 2002-2006 and at CEFE-CNRS in Montpellier (France) from 2007-2009. In 2010 I became a senior research fellow at CIBIO (University of Porto, Portugal) where I currently work as a Principal Researcher. I am also an Honorary Research Associate at the FitzPatrick Institute (University of Cape Town, South Africa).

Research Interests

I’m a behavioural ecologist and evolutionary biologist with a particular interest in the evolution and consequences of sociality. I use birds as study models and strongly believe in the importance of long-term field-based data informed by natural history to address evolutionary questions. I run the sociable weaver project at Benfontein Nature Reserve (together with Claire Doutrelant) and am also the coordinator of a long-term project on southern ground hornbills at the APNR, Hoedspruit (run jointly with Kyle Middleton and Carrie Hickman). Both projects investigate the evolution and consequences of sociality and cooperation. These long-term data sets are also very useful to study how long-term population dynamics is influenced by environmental variation and how this interacts with social behaviour.

In addition to this main interest in sociality, I have a strong interest in insularity and how species adapt to the island environment, especially on what concerns behavioural adaptations. I use comparative work to establish patterns of adaptation in island birds and the underlying mechanisms. The island work has been based on data obtained from museum specimens, the literature, and also field work conducted in the Gulf of Guinea islands (mostly São Tomé and Principe) and nearby mainland (Gabon and Cameroon).


Selected Publications

D’Amelio, P.B., Ferreira, A.C., Fortuna, R., Paquet, M., Silva, L.R., Theron, F., Doutrelant, C., Covas, R. (2021) Disentangling climatic and nest predator impact on reproductive output reveals adverse high- temperature effects regardless of helper number in an arid- region cooperative bird. Ecology Letters, 00, 1– 12. https://doi.org/10.1111/ele.13913

Fortuna R, Paquet M, Ferreira AC, Silva LR, Theron F, Doutrelant C, Covas R. (2021) Maternal allocation in relation to weather, predation and social factors in a colonial cooperative bird. Journal of Animal Ecology. 90: 1122–1133.https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2656.13438

Covas R, & Doutrelant C. 2019 Testing the Sexual and Social Benefits of Cooperation in Animals. Trends in Ecology & Evolution34(2), 112–120. doi:10.1016/j.tree.2018.11.006

Silva, LR, Lardy, S, Ferreira AC, Rey B, Doutrelant C, & Covas R. 2018 Females pay the oxidative cost of dominance in a highly social bird. Animal Behaviour144, 135–146. doi:10.1016/j.anbehav.2018.08.006

Paquet M, Doutrelant C, Loubon M, Theron , Rat M Covas R 2016 Communal roosting, thermoregulatory benefits and breeding group size predictability in cooperatively breeding sociable weavers. Journal of Avian Biology 47:1–7

Doutrelant C, Paquet M, Renoult JP, Grégoire A,Crochet P-A, Covas R 2016 Worldwide patterns of bird colouration on islands Ecology Letters 19:537-545

Paquet M, Doutrelant C, Hatchwell BJ, Spottiswoode CN, Covas R 2015. Antagonistic effect of helpers on breeding male and female survival a cooperatively breeding bird. Journal of Animal Ecology 84: 1354–1362.

Covas, R. 2012. Evolution of reproductive life histories in island birds worldwide. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B, 279, 1531-1537. doi:10.1098/rspb.2011.1

Covas R, du Plessis Doutrelant C., 2008 Helpers in a colonial cooperatively breeding bird help to counteract the effects of adverse breeding conditions. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology,63, 103-112.


Full publication list is available from https://scholar.google.co.za/citations?user=f3d4v7cAAAAJ&hl=en

%d bloggers like this: