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Tim Caro

Overview I am a biologist who carries out basic research, applied research and development work, principally in Africa. I spend considerable time at my long term field site in and around Katavi National Park, western Tanzania investigating (a) how anthropogenic forces are affecting large mammal populations in this protected area (Caro 2011), (b) why zebras have black and white stripes, and (c) facilitating development programs there. These are my 2012 projects:

Conservation biology in Tanzania I conduct local and national analyses of conservation issues in Tanzania. Around Katavi I monitor large mammal populations and relate them to issues of illegal hunting and changing hydrological conditions. I collaborate with Dr Emily Fitzherbert on attempts to reduce illegal lion killing in the park. Across the country, I have documented the whereabouts of remaining wildlife corridors with Dr Tim Davenport and Trevor Jones (Caro et al 2009); I work with PhD student Andimile Martin in one of these linkages; and with new students, I want to expand this work to other Tanzanian corridors. In the past, I conducted biological inventories of birds, butterflies, amphibians, reptiles, small mammals and trees in and around Katavi to catalog how different forms of protection affect biodiversity (Gardner et al. 2007), and to explore how umbrella, indicator and flagship concepts may be useful in conservation (Caro 2010).

Evolution of coloration in mammals My research explores the function and evolution of coloration in mammals (Caro 2005a; 2009) employing both broad scale phylogenetic analyses (e.g., Caro et al. 2011) and detailed field observations and simple experiments on selected species including plains zebra, giant anteaters and skunks. This involves fieldwork on three continents. I am interested in a postdoc or a graduate working on giant anteaters in Guyana. Currently, I am writing up a long series of experiments that have tested many of the hypotheses as to why zebras have black and white stripes; Dr Amanda Izzo, a postdoc in my lab, is collaborating with me on this.

Adaptive significance of antipredator defenses I have teamed up Dr Ted Stankowich on several phylogenetic comparative analyses of defenses (e.g., Stankowich & Caro 2009; Stankowich et al. 2011) and want to extend these comparative analyses to other taxa. I have written a monograph “Antipredator Defenses in Birds and Mammals” (Caro 2005b).

Interspecific competition in carnivores I examine the role that carnivores play in affecting the ecology and evolution of other carnivores employing comparative continental-wide analyses (Hunter & Caro 2008). I am interested in a graduate student working on North American skunks.

Linking disciplines: animal behavior and conservation biology With Prof Paul Sherman, we are trying to forge conceptual links between animal behavior and conservation. Many students are keen to apply insights gained in animal behavior over the last 40 years to contemporary loss of species but do not know how to proceed. We are outlining ways to link these disciplines effectively (Caro & Sherman 2011).

Development work in TanzaniaWorking with Tanzanians and Prof Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, we are raising money for a Youth Center in the western part of the country; we are facilitating regular visits of Tanzanian students to the national park in which I work (, and I supervise graduate students both in Tanzania and in the USA. Periodically I give advice to the Tanzanian Government about wildlife policy.

I am interested in taking on very committed graduate students, especially minorities and foreigners, and in working with postdocs remotely and at UC Davis.

Some publications
  • Caro, T. 2005a. The adaptive significance of coloration in mammals. BioScience 55: 125-136.
  • Caro, T. 2005b. Antipredator Defenses in Birds and Mammals. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  • Caro, T. 2009. Contrasting colouration in terrestrial mammals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society364: 537-548.
  • Caro, T. 2010. Conservation by Proxy: Indicator, Umbrella, Keystone, Flagship, and Other Surrogate Species. Island Press, Washington, DC.
  • Caro, T. 2011. On the merits and feasibility of wildlife monitoring for conservation: a case study from Katavi National Park, Tanzania. African Journal of Ecology 49, 320-331.
  • Caro, T., K. Beeman, T. Stankowich and H. Whitehead. 2011. The functional significance of coloration in cetaceans. Evolutionary Ecology 25, 1231-1245.
  • Caro, T., T. Jones and T.R.B. Davenport 2009. Realities of documenting wildlife corridors in tropical countries. Biological Conservation 142, 2807-2811.
  • Caro, T. and P.W. Sherman. 2011. Endangered species and threatened discipline: behavioural ecology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 26: 111-118.
  • Gardner, T., T. Caro, E. Fitzherbert, T. Banda, and P. Lalbhai. 2007. Conservation value of multiple use areas in East Africa. Conservation Biology 21, 1516-1525.
  • Hunter, J.S. and T. Caro. 2008. Interspecific competition and predation in American carnivore families. Ethology, Ecology and Evolution 20, 295-324.
  • Stankowich, T., T. Caro and M. Cox. 2011. Bold coloration and the evolution of aposematism in terrestrial carnivores.Evolution 65, 3090-3099.
  • Stankowich, T. and T. Caro. 2009. Evolution of weaponry in female bovids. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276: 4329-4334.

    Books by Tim Caro