School of Natural and Environmental Sciences

Staff Profile

Emeritus Professor Morris Gosling

Emeritus Professor


Since 2005 I have been engaged in a long-term study of mountain zebra in Namibia.  I employ an individual-based approach to explore population processes relevant to the conservation management of this species and to investigate aspects of mountain zebra evolutionary and behavioural ecology. When in Namibia I am based at The Namibia Nature Foundation in Windhoek and collaborate with stakeholders who are responsible for mountain zebra conservation in long-term study sites in state and privately owned protected areas throughout the country.


I am currently an Emeritus Professor after working as Professor of Animal Behaviour at Newcastle University, and before that 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 interested in the conservation of mammals, especially 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.


Linnean Society. Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. British Ecological Society. Mammal Society. Namibia Chamber of Environment. Fauna and Flora Preservation Society. Norfolk Wildlife Trust.


Research Interests

Evolutionary aspects of reproductive strategies in mammals.

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

Current Work 

  1. Conservation, population ecology and behaviour of Hartmann's mountain zebra; an individual-based field study in Namibia.
  2. 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). 
  3. The role of genetic variation in the production and function of odour signatures in humans and 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, the Parc Zoologique de Montpellier, the Gaia Nature Fund and supported by the Namibia Nature Foundation.


Undergraduate Teaching

I contribute to the teaching of animal behaviour in module MST1005


  • Zomer S, Dixon SJ, Xu Y, Jensen SP, Wang H, Lanyon CV, O'Donnell AG, Clare AS, Gosling LM, Penn DJ, Brereton RG. Consensus Multivariate methods in Gas Chromatographic Mass Spectrometry and Denaturing Gradient Gel Electrophoresis: MHC-congenic and other strains of mice can be classified according to the profiles of volatiles and microflora in their scent-marks. The Analyst 2009, 134(1), 114-123.
  • Gosling LM, Baker SJ. Coypu, Myocastor coypus. In: Harris, S; Yalden, DW, ed. Mammals of the British Isles: Handbook. Southampton: Mammal Society, 2008, pp.159-165.
  • Savelev SC, Antony-Babu S, Roberts S, Wang H, Clare AS, Gosling LM, Petrie M, Goodfellow M, O'Donnell A, Ward A. Individual variation in 3-methylbutanal: A putative link between human leukocyte antigen and skin microflora. Journal of Chemical Ecology 2008, 34(9), 1253-1257.
  • Roberts SC, Gosling LM, Carter V, Petrie M. MHC-correlated odour preferences in humans and the use of oral contraceptives. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 2008, 275(1652), 2715-2722.
  • Capellini I, Gosling LM. Habitat primary production and the evolution of body size within the hartebeest clade. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 2007, 92(3), 431-440.
  • Lanyon CV, Rushton SP, O'Donnell AG, Goodfellow M, Ward AC, Petrie M, Jensen SP, Gosling LM, Penn DJ. Murine scent mark microbial communities are genetically determined. FEMS Microbiology Ecology 2007, 59(3), 576-583.
  • Capellini I, Gosling LM. The evolution of fighting structures in hartebeest. Evolutionary Ecology Research 2006, 8(6), 997-1011.
  • Roberts SC, Gosling LM, Spector TD, Miller P, Penn DJ, Petrie M. Body odor similarity in noncohabiting twins. Chemical Senses 2005, 30(8), 651-656.
  • Savelev SU, Wang H, Clare AS, Gosling ML. Device for direct sampling of dermal headspace. Patent no. GB0507950.4. 2005.
  • Roberts SC, Little AC, Gosling LM, Jones BC, Perrett DI, Carter V, Petrie M. MHC-assortative facial preferences in humans. Biology Letters 2005, 1(4), 400-403.
  • Roberts SC, Little AC, Gosling LM, Perrett DI, Carter V, Jones BC, Penton-Voak I, Petrie M. MHC-heterozygosity and human facial attractiveness. Evolution and Human Behavior 2005, 26(3), 213-226.
  • Roberts SC, Gosling LM. Manipulation of olfactory signaling and mate choice for conservation breeding: A case study of harvest mice. Conservation Biology 2004, 18(2), 548-556.
  • Gosling LM. Adaptive behaviour and population viability. In: Festa-Bianchet, M., Apollonio, M, ed. Animal Behaviour and Wildlife Conservation. Washington, DC, USA: Island Press, 2003, pp.13-32.
  • Roberts SC, Gosling LM. Genetic similarity and quality interact in mate choice decisions by female mice. Nature Genetics 2003, 35(1), 103-106.
  • Apollonio M, Scotti M, Gosling LM. Mating success and fidelity to territories in a fallow deer lek: A female removal experiment. Naturwissenschaften 2003, 90(12), 553-557.
  • Collins SA, Gosling LM, Watkins RW, Cowan DP. Artificially increasing scent mark rate increases urogenital gland size in mice Mus musculus. Physiology and Behaviour 2001, 74(4-5), 517-522.
  • Gosling LM, Roberts SC. Scent-marking by male mammals: Cheat-proof signals to competitors and mates. Advances in the Study of Behavior 2001, 30, 169-217.
  • Roberts SC, Gosling LM, Thornton EA, McClung J. Scent-marking by male mice under the risk of predation. Behavioral Ecology 2001, 12(6), 698-705.
  • Gosling LM, Roberts SC. Testing ideas about the function of scent marks in territories from spatial patterns. Animal Behaviour 2001, 62(3), F7-F10.
  • Roberts SC, Gosling LM. The economic consequences of advertising scent mark location in territories. In: Marchlewska-Koy, A; Lepri, JJ; Muller-Schwarze, D, ed. Chemical Signals in Vertebrates IX. New York, USA: Kluver Academic/Plenum Press, 2001, pp.11-18.
  • Sutherland WJ, Gosling LM. Advances in the study of behaviour and their role in conservation. In: Gosling, L.M. and Sutherland, W.J, ed. Behaviour and Conservation. London: Cambridge University Press, 2000, pp.3-9.
  • Gosling LM, Sutherland WH, ed. Behaviour and Conservation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.
  • Gosling LM, Roberts SC, Thornton EA, Andrew MJ. Life history costs of olfactory status signalling in mice. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 2000, 48(4), 328-332.
  • Collins, S.A., Gosling, L.M., Hudson, J. and Cowan, D. (1997). Does behaviour after weaning affect the dominance status of adult male mice (Mus musculus)?. Behaviour 1997, 134, 989-1002.
  • Gosling, L.M., Atkinson, N.W., Collins, S.A., Roberts, R.J. and Walters, R.L. Avoidance of scent-marked areas depends on the intruders body size. Behaviour 1996, 133, 491-502.
  • Gosling L.M., Atkinson N.W., Dunn S. & Collins, S.A. The response of subordinate male mice to scent marks varies in relation to their own competitive ability. Animal Behaviour 1996, 52, 1185-1191.
  • Gosling, L.M. and Wright, K.M.H. Scent marking and resource defence by male coypus. Journal of Zoology 1993, 234, 423-436.
  • Gosling, L.M. and McKay, H.V. Scent-rubbing and status signalling by male mammals. Chemoecology 1991, 1, 92-95.
  • Gosling, L.M. The alternative mating strategies of male topi, Damaliscus lunatus. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 1991, 29, 107-119.
  • Gosling, L.M. and McKay, H.V. Competitor assessment by scent matching: an experimental test. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology 1990, 26, 415-420.
  • Gosling, L.M. and Baker, S.J. Coypu. In: Corbet, G.B. and Harris, S, ed. The Handbook of British Mammals, 3rd Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1990, pp.267-275.
  • Gosling, L.M. and Petrie, M. Lekking in topi: a consequence of satellite behaviour by small males at hotspots. Animal Behaviour 1990, 40, 272-287.
  • Gosling, L.M. Scent-marking by resource holders: alternative mechanisms for advertising the costs of competition. In: Chemical Signals in Vertebrates. 1990, Oxford University Press.
  • Gosling, L.M., Baker, S.J. and Clarke, C.N. An attempt to remove coypus (Myocastor coypus) from an area of wetland habitat in East Anglia. Journal of Applied Ecology 1989, 25, 49-62.
  • Gosling, L.M. and Baker, S.J. Demographic consequences of differences in the ranging behaviour of male and female coypus. In: Putman, R.J, ed. Mammals as Pests. London: Chapman & Hall, 1989, pp.155-167.
  • Gosling, L.M. Extinction to order. New Scientist 1989, 121, 44-49.
  • Gosling, L.M. and Baker S.J. The eradication of coypus and muskrats from Britain. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 1989, 38, 39-51.
  • Gosling, L.M., Wright, K.M.H. and Few, G.D. Facultative variation in the timing of parturition by female coypus and the cost of delay. Journal of Zoology 1988, 214, 407-415.
  • Gosling, L.M., Petrie, M. and Rainy, M.E. Lekking in topi: a high cost, specialist strategy. Animal Behaviour 1987, 35, 616-618.
  • Gosling, L.M. and Baker, S.J. Planning and monitoring an attempt to eradicate coypus from Britain. In: Symposia of the Zoological Society of London, 58. 1987, pp.99-113.
  • Gosling, L.M. Scent marking in an antelope lek territory. Animal Behaviour 1987, 35, 620-622.
  • Gosling, L.M. Biased sex ratios in stressed animals. American Naturalist 1986, 127, 893-896.
  • Gosling, L.M. Economic consequences of scent marking in mammalian territoriality. In: Duvall, D., Muller-Schwarze, D. and Silverstein, R.M, ed. Chemical Signals in Vertebrates 4. New York: Plenum Press, 1986, pp.385-395.
  • Gosling, L.M., Petrie, M. and Rainy, M.E. Male topi manipulate the behaviour of potential mates by threats to their offspring. Animal Behaviour 1986, 34, 284-285.
  • Gosling, L.M. Selective abortion of entire litters in the coypu: adaptive control of offspring production in relation to quality and sex. American Naturalist 1986, 127, 772-795.
  • Gosling, L.M. The evolution of mating strategies in male antelopes. In: Rubenstein, D.I. and Wrangham, R.W, ed. Ecological Aspects of Social Evolution. Princeton University Press, 1986, pp.244-281.
  • Gosling, L.M. The even-toed ungulates: order Artiodactyla. Sources, behavioural context, and function of chemical signals. In: Brown, R.E. and Macdonald, D.W, ed. Social Odours in Mammals. Oxford University Press, 1985, pp.550-618.
  • Gosling, L.M. and Skinner, J.R. Coypu, Myocastor coypus. In: Mason, I.L, ed. The Evolution of Domesticated Animals. London: Longman, 1984, pp.246-251.
  • Gosling, L.M., Baker, S.J. and Wright, K.M.H. Differential investment by female coypus (Myocastor coypus) during lactation. In: Symposium of the Zoological Society of London, 51. 1984, pp.273-300.
  • Gosling, L.M., Baker, S.J. and Skinner, J.R. A simulation approach to investigating the response of a coypu population to climatic variation. EPPO Bulletin 1983, 13, 183-192.
  • Gosling, L.M. A reassessment of the function of scent marking in territories. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 1982, 60, 89-118.
  • Gosling, L.M. Climatic determinants of spring littering by feral coypus (Myocastor coypus). Journal of Zoology 1981, 195, 281-288.
  • Gosling, L.M., Watt, A.D. and Baker, S.J. Continuous retrospective census of the East Anglian coypu population between 1970 and 1979. Journal of Animal Ecology 1981, 50, 885-901.
  • Gosling, L.M. and Baker, S.J. Coypu potential longevity. Journal of Zoology 1981, 197, 285-312.
  • Gosling, L.M. Demarkation in a gerenuk territory: an economic approach. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, 56, 305-322 1981, 56, 305-322.
  • Gosling, L.M. The Coypu. In: Boyle, C.L, ed. The RSPCA book of British wild mammals. London: Collins, 1981, pp.129-135.
  • Gosling, L.M. The dynamics and control of a feral coypu population. In: Chapman, J.A. and Pursley, D, ed. Proceedings of International Furbearer Conference, Maryland. 1981, pp.1806-1825.
  • Gosling, L.M. and Petrie, M. The economics of social organization. In: Townsend, C.R. and Calow, P, ed. Physiological Ecology:an evolutionary approach to resource use. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1981, pp.315-345.
  • Gosling, L.M. The effect of cold weather on success in trapping feral coypus (Myocastor coypus). Journal of Applied Ecology 1981, 18, 467-470.
  • Gosling, L.M. The role of wild plants in the ecology of mammalian crop pests. In: Thresh, J.M, ed. Pests, Pathogens and Vegetation. London: Pitmans, 1981, pp.341-364.
  • Gosling, L.M. and Baker S.J. Acidity fluctuations at a broadland site in Norfolk. Journal of Applied Ecology 1980, 17, 479-490.
  • Gosling, L.M., Huson, L.W. and Addison, G.C. Age estimation of coypus (Myocastor coypus) from eye lens weight. Journal of Applied Ecology 1980, 17, 641-647.
  • Gosling, L.M. Defence guilds of savannah ungulates as a context for scent communication. In: Stoddart, D.M, ed. Symposium of the Zoological Society of London, 45. 1980, pp.195-212.
  • Gosling, L.M., Guyon, G.E. and Wright, K.M.H. Diurnal activity of feral coypus (Myocastor coypus) during the cold winter of 1978/79. Journal of Zoology 1980, 192, 143-146.
  • Gosling, L.M. Reproduction of the Himalayan porcupine (Hystrix hodgsoni) in captivity. Journal of Zoology 1980, 192, 546-549.
  • Gosling, L.M. The duration of lactation in feral coypus (Myocastor coypus, Molina). Journal of Zoology 1980, 191, 461-474.
  • Gosling, L.M. The twenty-four hour activity cycle of captive coypus (Myocastor coypus). Journal of Zoology 1979, 187, 341-367.
  • Gosling, L.M. The ecological significance of male behaviour in Coke's hartebeest, Alcelaphus buselaphus cokei, Günther. Ph.D. thesis, University of Nairobi, 1975.
  • Gosling, L.M. The social behaviour of Coke's hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus cokei. In: Geist, V. and Walther, F.R, ed. The behaviour of ungulates and its relation to management. Morges: IUCN, 1974, pp.488-511.
  • Gosling, L.M. The construction of antorbital gland marking sites by male oribi (Ourebia ourebia, Zimmerman, 1783). Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie 1972, 30, 271-276.
  • Gosling, L.M. Parturition and related behaviour in Coke's hartebeest, Alcelaphus buselaphus cokei Gunther. Journal of Reproduction and Fertility 1969, Supplement 6, 265-286.
  • Gosling, L.M. The last Nakuru hartebeest. Oryx 1969, 10, 173-174.