Institute for Sustainability

Staff Profile

Emeritus Professor Morris Gosling

Emeritus Professor



I am an Emeritus Professor in NIReS after working as Professor of Animal Behaviour at Newcastle University, as Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London and as a research scientist in MAFF (now DEFRA). My research interests are in the evolutionary ecology and behaviour of mammals and the sexually selected traits that shape mating systems. These include aspects of male competition, especially scent marking in territories, and characters driven by female choice including those on leks. I am particularly interested in the conservation of large mammals, including individual-based approaches and the need to consider behaviour and evolutionary process in conservation.


BSc (Hons) Zoology, University of London.
PhD Animal Behaviour, University of Nairobi.
Fellow of the Society of Biology

Previous Positions

Head of Coypu Research Laboratory, MAFF.
Head of Mammal Ecology Group, MAFF.
Director of Science and the Institute of Zoology, Zoological Society of London.
Professor of Animal Behaviour, University of Newcastle.


Fellow of the Linnaean Society.
Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.
British Ecological Society.
Mammal Society.
Norfolk Naturalists Trust.


Research Interests

- Evolutionary aspects of reproductive strategies in mammals.
- Evolution of mating systems, particularily social evolution in African ungulates, and the maintenance of alternative reproductive strategies.
- Mate choice decisions including the role of MHC mediated odours.
- Olfactory signals of quality to competitors and mates especially scent marking by resource holders.
- Individual-based approaches to conservation biology and the value of basic studies of behaviour and ecology for population conservation.

Current Work

1. Conservation, population ecology and behaviour of Hartmann's mountain zebra; an individual-based field study in Namibia.
2. The role of genetic variation in the production and function of odour signatures in humans and mice.
3. The role of investment in costly olfactory signalling in the spatial distribution of scent marks in territories and the evolution of alternative life histories (including an experimental study in mice).

Postgraduate Supervision

I have recently supervised successful postgraduate projects on:
- the fitness consequences of alternative scent-marking strategies in mice (Gabrielle Vallons)
- signalling costs, social dominance and population viability in giraffes (Rachel Horner)
- the roles of natural and sexual selection in the adaptive radiation of hartebeest (Isabella Capellini)


My work on the biology and conservation of mountain zebra in Namibia is funded by the Rufford Foundation and supported by the Namibia Nature Foundation.


Undergraduate Teaching

I contribute to the teaching of animal behaviour in module MST1005.