Botany & Zoology
Welcome to Stellenbosch University

Prof. Michael Cherry

Behavioural Ecology - Birds and Mammals

Biographical sketch

I was born in Cape Town in 1959, where from 1966-1977 I attended the S A College School (SACS). From there I proceeded to the University of Cape Town, where I was President of the Science Students Council, and served as a student representative on the University Senate. After completing my honours degree, I served two years' national service as a nature conservation officer in the SA Air Force. I started my career as a marine biologist, and in 1984 I was a member of SA expedition to Prydz Bay, Antarctica, as part of the Second International Biomass Experiment.

In October 1984 I registered as a D.Phil. student in the Department of Zoology and at Balliol College, Oxford, working under the supervision of Malcolm Coe and Tim Halliday. In 1987 I was a visiting student at the Institut für Zoologie at the Technische Universität, Munich in the laboratory of Georg Klump, and at the Université de Paris VI, in the laboratory of Helene Françillon-Vieillot. My doctorate, entitled “Sexual selection and mating systems in Bufo pardalis and Bufo rangeri ” was awarded in 1989. During 1987 I started writing as a contributing southern African correspondent for the international science journal Nature, which I have continued to do ever since. Between 1988 and 1989 I taught biology as an assistant master at Winchester College, in Hampshire in the UK.

I returned to South Africa in October 1989 to take up a position at the South African Museum. In 1993 I completed an intensive NSF-sponsored course at The Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massaschusetts, on “Molecular Evolution”. Later that year, when the museum was re-organized, I became Curator of Herpetology and Ornithology, and Deputy Head of the Life Sciences Division, a position I held until the end of 1994. In 1995 I moved to the University of Stellenbosch to take up a senior lectureship in zoology. I chaired the “Biodiversity and Ecology” programme for a decade between 1998 and 2008, and was promoted to associate professor in 2003, and professor in 2007.  I have twice been an invited lecturer on Tropical Biology Association fieldcourses: in Kibale Forest, Uganda; and the Usambara Mountains, Tanzania, respectively.  I have completed sabbaticals at the universities of Bristol, Oxford and Burgundy, and since 2009 I have been Editor-in-chief of the South African Journal of Science.

Current Projects:

Current Postdocs:

Current PhD Students:

Peer-reviewed publications since 2001:

I. M. van den Heuvel, M. I. Cherry and G. M. Klump.  2014. Unfaithful females in the Crimson-breasted Shrike contributed more to duets than faithful females Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 68: 1245-1272.

M. Honza, M. Šulc and M. I. Cherry. 2014. Does nest luminosity play a role in recognition of parasitic eggs in domed nests? A case study of the Red Bishop Natuurwissenschaften in pressDOI: 10.1007/s00114-014-1240-9

I. M. van den Heuvel, M. I. Cherry and G. M. Klump.  2014. Land or lover? Territorial defence and mutual mate guarding in the Crimson-breasted Shrike. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 68: 373-381.

Sharpe, L.L., Hill, A. and Cherry, M.I.   2013.  Individual recognition in a wild cooperative mammal using contact calls Animal Behaviour 86: 893-900.

Bonato, M., M. R. Evans, D. Hasselquist, R. B. Sherley, S.W.P. Cloete and M. I. Cherry. 2013. Ostrich chick humoral immune responses and growth rate are predicted by parental immune responses and paternal coloration. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol.67:1891-1903

Lotz C.N., Caddick J.A., Forner M, Cherry M.I. 2013. Beyond just species: Is Africa the most taxonomically diverse bird continent? S Afr J Sci. 109(5/6), Art. #0002, 4 pages. sajs.2013/20120002

Van den Heuvel, I., Cherry, M.I. and Klump, G.M. 2013. Individual identity, song repertoire and duet function in the Crimson-breasted Shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus). Bioacoustics 22: 1-15.

Sharpe, L.L., Jooste, M.M. and Cherry, M.I. 2012.  Handstand scent marking in the dwarf mongoose (Helogale parvula). Ethology118: 575-583.

Chan, C., Jansen van Vuuren, B. and Cherry, M.I. 2011. Fynbos fires may contribute to the maintenance of high genetic diversity in orange-breasted sunbirds (Anthobaphes violacea). South African Journal of Wildlife Research 41: 87-94.

Honza, M., Požgayová, M., Procházka, P. and Cherry, M.I. 2011. Blue-green eggshell coloration is not a sexually selected signal of female quality in an open-nesting polygynous passerine. Naturwissenschaften 98: 493-499.

McFarlane, M., Evans, M.R., Feldheim, K., Préault, M., Bowie, R.C.K. and Cherry, M. I. 2010. Long tails matter – positively for extra-pair, negatively for within-pair fertilization success. Behavioral Ecology 21: 26-32.

Sharpe, L.L., Joustra, A.S. & Cherry, M. I.  2010. The presence of an avian co-forager reduces vigilance in a cooperative mammal.  Biology Letters6: 475-477.

M. I. Cherry & A. G. Gosler.  2010. Avian egg coloration: adaptive explanations and constraints. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society100: 753-762.

Tolley, K., de Villiers, A., Cherry, M.I. & Measey, J. 2010.  Isolation and high genetic diversity in dwarf mountain toads (Capensibufo) from South Africa.  Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 100: 822-834.

McFarlane, M.L., Cherry, M.I & M.R.Evans. 2010.  Female Cape sugarbirds (Promerops cafer) modify egg investment both for extra-pair mates and for male tail length. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2010.02067.x

Orlando, L., Metcalfe, J.L., Alberdi, M.T., Telles-Antunes, M., Bonjean, D., Otte, M.,  Martin, F., Eisenmann, V., Mashkour, M., Morello, F., Prado, J.L., Salas-Gismondi, R., Shockey, B.J., Wrinn, P.J., Vasil’ev, S.K., Ovodov, N.D., Cherry, M.I., Hopwood, B., Male, D., Austin, J., Hänni, C. and Cooper, A.  2009. Revising the recent evolutionary history of equids using ancient DNA.  PNAS106: 21754-21759.

L. Polačiková, P. Procházka, M. I. Cherry and M. Honza.  2009. Choosing suitable hosts: common cuckoos Cuculus canorus parasitize great reed warblers Acrocephalus arundinaceus of high quality. Evolutionary Ecology 23: 879-891.

M. Bonato, M. R. Evans, D. Hasselquist, S.W.P. Cloete and M. I. Cherry. 2009.  Growth rate and hatching date in ostrich (Struthio camelus) chicks reflect humoral but not cell-mediated immunocompetence.  Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 64:183–19.

M. Bonato, M. R. Evans, D. Hasselquist, and M. I. Cherry. 2009. Male colouration reveals different components of immunocompetence in ostriches (Struthio camelus)Animal Behaviour 77: 33-1039.

M. Bonato, M.R. Evans and M. I. Cherry. 2009. Egg investment is influenced by male colouration in the ostrich (Struthio camelus).Animal Behaviour 77: 1027-1032.

A. le Roux, M.I. Cherry, L. Gygax and M. Manser.  2009. Vigilance behaviour and fitness consequences compared between a solitary and an obligate group foraging mammal. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol 63: 1097-1107.

T.N.C. Vidya, Z. Balmforth, A. le Roux, and M. I. Cherry. 2009. Genetic structure, relatedness, and helping behaviour in the yellow mongoose in a farmland and a natural habitat. J. Zoology, Lond. 278: 57-64.

A. le Roux, M.I. Cherry, and M. Manser. 2009. The vocal repertoire in a solitary foraging carnivore, Cynictis penicillata, reflects facultative sociality. Naturwissenschaften 96: 575 – 584.

M. I. Cherry.  2009.  The Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel. Pages 16-35 in Cullinan, K. & Thom, A. (eds.) The virus, the vitamins and the vegetables.  Jacana Media, Johannesburg.

A. le Roux, M. I. Cherry, and M. Manser.  2008.  The effects of population density and sociality on scent marking in the yellow mongoose.  J. Zoology, Lond. 275: 33-40.

A. le Roux, M. I. Cherry, and M. Manser.  2008.  The audience effect in a facultatively social mammal, the yellow mongoose Cynictis penicillataAnimal Behaviour 75: 943-949.

M. I. Cherry and M. W. Gibbons.  2007.  Rating the NRF’s rating system.  SA Journal of Science 103: 179-181.

Grégoire, A. and M.I. Cherry.  2007. Nesting success and within-season breeding dispersal in the Orange-breasted Sunbird, Anthobaphes violacea.Ostrich 78(3): 633-636.

Grégoire, A., McFarlane, M.L., Faivre, B., Evans, M.R. and Cherry, M.I. 2007.  Patterns of morphological variation in two sexually dimorphic nectivorous bird species with different tail shapes.  Biological Journal of the Linnean Society91: 437-443.

Cherry, M. I., Bennett, A.T.D. and Moskát, C.  2007.  Cuckoo egg matching, host intra-clutch variation and egg rejection by great reed warblers Naturwissenschaften94: 441-447.

Cherry, M. I., Bennett, A.T.D. and Moskát, C.  2007.  Do cuckoos choose nests of great reed warblers on the basis of host egg appearance?  Journal of Evolutionary Biology20: 1218-1222.

Jordan, N.R., Cherry, M.I. and Manser, M.B. 2007.  The spatial and temporal distribution of meerkat latrines reflects intruder diversity and suggests a role in mate-defence.  Animal Behaviour73: 613-622.

Honza, M., Kuiper, S.M. and M. I. Cherry. 2005.  Behaviour of African turdid hosts towards experimental parasitism with artificial red-chested cuckoo Cuculus solitarius eggs. J. Avian Biol.36: 517-522.

Teske, P.R., Hamilton, H., Palsbøll, P. J., Choo, C. K., Gabr, H., Lourie, S.A., Santos, M., Sreepada, A., Cherry, M.I. and C. A. Matthee.  2005.  Molecular evidence suggests that long-distance colonization, low inter-population connectivity, and population expansions are driving speciation in an Indo-Pacific seahorse.  Marine Ecology Progress Series286: 249-260.

Cunningham, M. and M. I. Cherry.  2004.  Molecular Systematics of African 20-Chromosome Toads (Anura: Bufonidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32: 671-685.

Teske, P.R., M. I. Cherry, and C. A. Matthee.  2004. The evolutionary history of seahorses (Syngnathidae: Hippocampus) based on nuclear and mitochondrial DNA markers. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution30: 272-286.

Sharpe, L.L. and M. I. Cherry. 2003.  Social play does not reduce aggression in wild meerkats. Animal Behaviour 66: 989-997.

Calf, K. M., Downs, C. T. and Cherry, M. I. 2003.  Territoriality of Cape Sugarbirds Promerops cafer between and within breeding seasons. Ostrich 74: 125-128.

Calf, C. T., Downs, C. and M. I. Cherry. 2003. A comparison of the territorial and foraging activities of male Cape and Gurney's Sugarbirds (Promerops cafer and Promerops gurneyi). African Zoology 38: 297-304.

Teske, P.R., M. I. Cherry, and C. A. Matthee.  2003.  Population genetics of the endangered Knysna Seahorse, Hippocampus capensis.Molecular Ecology 12: 1703-1716.

Calf, K.M., Downs, C.T. and M. I. Cherry.  2003. Territoriality and mating and reproductive success in the Cape sugarbird. Emu 103(1): 29-35.

Karcza, Z., Moskát, C., Cherry, M.I. and Kisbenedek, T.  2003. Experimental manipulation of intraclutch variation in the great reed warbler shows no effect on rejection behaviour of parasitic eggs. Ethology109: 15-22.

Monnet, J-M. and Cherry, M.I.  2002.  Sexual size dimorphism in anurans. Proceedings Royal Society of London B 269: 2301-2307.

S. M. Kuiper and M.I. Cherry.  2002. Brood parasitism and egg matching in the red-chested cuckoo. Ibis44: 632-639.

Sharpe, L.L., Clutton-Brock, T.H., Brotherton, P.N.M., Cameron, E.Z. and M.I. Cherry.  2002. Experimental provisioning increases play in free-ranging meerkats.  Animal Behaviour64: 113-121.

A. le Roux, T. P. Jackson and M. I. Cherry.  2002.  Differences in alarm vocalizations of sympatric populations of the whistling rats, Parotomys brantsii and P. littledalei. J. Zoology, Lond.257: 189-194.

A. le Roux, T. P. Jackson and M. I. Cherry.  2001. The effect of changing call duration and calling bouts on vigilance in Brant’ whistling rat, Parotomys brantsii.Behaviour138: 1287-1302.

K. M. Calf, C. T. Downs and M. I. Cherry. 2001. Territoriality and breeding success in Gurney's Sugarbirds, Promerops gurneyi.African Zoology 36: 189-195.

M. I. Cooper, M. Cunningham and M. I. Cherry. 2001. Taxonomic Status of the Namibian Violet Woodhoopoe Phoeniculus damarensis as Determined by Mitochondrial DNA. Ibis143: 572-579.

A. le Roux, T. P. Jackson and M. I. Cherry.  2001. Does Brant’s whistling rat, (Parotomys brantsii) use an urgency-based alarm system in reaction to aerial and terrestrial predators? Behaviour138: 757 – 773.

Eick, B. N., E. H. Harley and M. I. Cherry. 2001. Molecular analysis supports specific status for Bufo pardalis and Bufo pantherinus. Journal of Herpetology 35(1): 113-114.

M. I. Cherry and A. T. D. Bennett.  2001. Egg colour matching in an African cuckoo, as revealed by ultraviolet-visible reflectance spectrophotometry. Proceedings Royal Society of London B 268: 565-571.

Peer-reviewed publications pre 2001:

  1. Grant, W. S., Cherry, M. I. and A. T. Lombard. 1984. A cryptic species of Mytilus (Mollusca: Bivalvia) on the west coast of South Africa . SA Journal of marine Science 2 : 149-162.

  2. Branch, G. M. and M. I. Cherry. 1985. Activity rhythms of the pulmonate limpet Siphonaria capensis Q. and G. as an adaptation to osmotic stress, predation and wave action. Journal of experimental marine Biology and Ecology 87 : 153-168.

  3. Grant, W. S. and M. I. Cherry. 1985. Mytilus galloprovincialis Lmk. in southern Africa . Journal of experimental marine Biology and Ecology 90 : 179-191.

  4. Cherry, M. I., Cherry, R. D. and M. Heyraud. 1987. Polonium-210 and lead-210 in Antarctic marine biota and sea water. Marine Biology 96 : 441-449.

  5. Cherry, M. I. 1990. Tail length and female choice. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 5 : 349-350.

  6. Cherry, M. I. 1992. Sexual selection in the leopard toad, Bufo pardalis . Behaviour 120 (3-4) : 164-176.

  7. Cherry, M. I. and Françillon Vieillot, H. 1992. Body size, age and reproduction in the leopard toad, Bufo pardalis . Journal of Zoology ( London ) 228 : 41-52.

  8. Grant, W. S., Schneider, A. C., Leslie, R. W. and M. I. Cherry. 1992. Population genetics of the brown mussel Perna perna in southern Africa . Journal of experimental marine Biology and Ecology 165 : 45-58.

  9. Cherry, M. I. 1993. Sexual selection in the raucous toad, Bufo rangeri . Animal Behaviour 45 : 359-373.

  10. Cherry, M. I. and W. S. Grant. 1994. Phylogenetic relationships and call structure in four African bufonid species. SA Journal of Zoology 29 : 1-10.

  11. Cherry, M. I. Ancient DNA and museums. 1994. SA Journal of Science 90 : 437-438.

  12. Heyraud, M., Cherry, R.D., Oschadleus, H-D., Augustyn, C.J., Cherry, M.I. and J.C.Sealy. 1994. Polonium-210 and Lead-210 in edible molluscs from the Cape of Good Hope : Sources of variability in Polonium-210 Concentrations. Journal of Environmental Radio-activity 24 : 253-272.

  13. Drinkrow, D. R., Cherry, M. I. and Siegfried, W. R. 1994. The role of natural history museums in preserving biodiversity. SA Journal of Science 90 : 470-479.

  14. Drinkrow, D. R. and Cherry, M. I. 1995. Anuran distribution, diversity and conservation in South Africa , Lesotho and Swaziland . SA Journal of Zoology 30 : 82-90.

  15. C. O' Ryan, E. H. Harley, M. Beaumont, M. W. Bruford, R.K. Wayne and M. I. Cherry. 1998. Genetics of fragmented populations of African buffalo ( Syncerus caffer ) in South Africa . Animal Conservation 1 : 85-94.

  16. M. Cunningham and M. I. Cherry. 2000. Mitochondrial DNA divergence in southern African bufonids: are species equivalent entities? African J. Herpetology 49: 9-22.

  17. M. I. Cherry. 2000. Operational Sex Ratios in Bufo rangeri : a test of the active-inactive model. African Zoology 35: 277-280.

Book chapters:

M. I. Cherry, M. J. Stander and J. C. Poynton. 1999. The Amphibians of Mkomazi . Pages 405-410 in Coe, M.J., McWilliam , N.C. , Stone, G.N. & Packer, M.J. (eds.) Mkomazi: the Ecology, Biodiversity and Conservation of a Tanzanian Savanna . Royal Geographical Society, London .