David Lahti: Publications

This list is partially annotated, and has links to full text. Peer reviewed publications are marked with an asterisk (*), and invited publications with a caret (^). In 2014 my research students began to publish; for these, please see our Lahti Lab Publication Page.


*Youngblood, Mason P. & David C. Lahti. 2022. Content bias in the cultural evolution of house finch song. Animal Behaviour.

^*Lahti, David C. 2021. Analysis of egg variation and foreign egg rejection in Rüppell’s weaver (Ploceus galbula). Frontiers in Ecology & Evolution 9:734126 (23 pp). DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2021.734126.

*Kornreich, Ar, Mason P. Youngblood, Paul C. Mundinger, & David C. Lahti. 2021. Female song can be as long and complex as male song in the house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus). Wilson Journal of Ornithology 132:840-849. DOI: 10.1676/19-00126.

*Mann, Dan C., David C. Lahti, Laura Waddick, & Paul C. Mundinger. 2020. House finches learn canary trills. BioacousticsDOI: 10.1080/09524622.2020.1718551.

*Owen, M. Aaron & David C. Lahti. 2020. Rapid evolution by sexual selection in an invasive mammal. Evolution 74:740-748.



^Summers, Kyle, David C. Lahti, Stanton Braude, Beverly Strassmann, and Joan Strassmann. 2019. Obituary: The nine lives of Richard D. Alexander. Evolution & Human Behavior 40:133-139.

*Khan, Khaleda, Bobby Habig, & David C. Lahti. 2019. Behavioural analysis of village weavers Ploceus cucullatus in an Ethiopian breeding colony during early incubation: 2. Males. Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology90:233-239.

*Habig, Bobby, Khaleda Khan, & David C. Lahti. 2019. Behavioural analysis of village weavers Ploceus cucullatus in an Ethiopian breeding colony during early incubation: 1. Females. Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology90:223-231.

^Lahti, David C. 2019. Be careful with Occam’s razor, you might cut yourself. Scientific American blog: Cross Check (invited guest post). 8 May.

(This is an invited response to a post by John Horgan, also included in the pdf).

^Lahti,  David C. 2019. Tracking cultural evolution in house finch song. AOS (American Ornithological Society) News. Part I: 21 February; Part II: 22 February.

*Ju, Chenghui, Frances C. Geller, P. C. Mundinger, & David C. Lahti. 2019. Four decades of cultural evolution in house finch songs. Auk: Ornithological Advances136:1-18.

^Lahti, David C. 2018. Evolution doesn’t eliminate, it illuminates: a comment for Dr. Shoppa of St. Francis College. ASEBL Journal 18:7-10.

^Lahti, David C. 2018. Behavior. Inference: International Review of Science 3(4).

*Youngblood, Mason P. & David C. Lahti. 2018. A bibliometric analysis of the interdisciplinary field of cultural evolution. Palgrave Communications4:120, 1-9.

^Ju, Chenghui & David C. Lahti. 2017. Review of Tim Burkhead, The Most Perfect Thing: Inside (and Outside) a Bird’s EggAuk: Ornithological Advances134:922-924.

*Habig, Bobby, Patrick I. Chiyo, & David C. Lahti. 2017. Male risk-taking is related to number of mates in a polygynous bird. Behavioral Ecology 28:541-548.

^Lahti, David C. 2016. An ambivalent amphibian. Inference: International Review of Science 2(4).

*Podos, Jeff, Dana L. Moseley, Sarah E. Goodwin, Jesse McClure, Benjamin N. Taft, Amy V. H. Strauss, Christine Rega-Brodsky, & David C. Lahti. 2016. A fine-scale, broadly applicable index of vocal performance: frequency excursion. Animal Behaviour 116:203-212.

*Lahti, David C. & Daniel R. Ardia. 2016. Shedding light on bird egg color: pigment as parasol and the dark car effect. American Naturalist187:547-563.

^Lahti, David C. 2016. Converging all the way to the (tangled) bank. (A review of Simon Conway Morris’ Runes of Evolution: How the Universe Became Self-Aware). Science and Christian Belief28:125-127.

Maniego, Charles, Frances C. Geller, Chenghui Ju, Khaleda Khan, & D. C. Lahti. 2015. Song sharing and assessment of individual identity in house finches. A white paper to accompany the house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) recordings of Paul C. Mundinger deposited at the Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. 15 May, 10pp.

*Owen, M. Aaron & David C. Lahti. 2015Sexual dimorphism and condition dependence in the anal pad of the small Indian mongoose (Herpestes auropunctatus).  Canadian Journal of Zoology93:397-402.

*^Lahti, David C. 2015. The limits of artificial stimuli in behavioral research: the umwelt gamble. Ethology121:529-537.

*Navarro, Johanna Y. & David C. Lahti. 2014. Light dulls and darkens bird eggs.  PLoS One9:e116112.

*Habig, Bobby & David C. Lahti. 2014. Heterospecific intrusions, synchronous fleeing, and nest attendance in a weaverbird colony. Journal of Ornithology156:551-555.

^Lahti, David C. 2014. On explanation in evolutionary biology. In W. Thorson (ed.), The Woodpecker’s Purpose: A Scientific and Theological Critique of Intelligent Design. Wenham, MA: Gordon College CFI, pp.135-142.

*Mundinger, Paul C. & David C. Lahti. 2014. The quantitative integration of genetic factors in the learning and production of canary song. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B281:20132631.

^Lahti, David C. 2014. On the partnership between natural and moral philosophy. In H. Putnam, S. Neiman, and J. Schloss (eds.), Understanding Moral Sentiments. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press, pp.229-256.

Lahti, David C. & Fernando Nottebohm. 2014. Remembering Paul Mundinger (1934-2011). Auk: Ornithological Advances 131:116-119.

*Lahti, David C. 2013. The sociality of nesting in Rüppell’s Weaver (Ploceus galbula) and the Lesser Masked Weaver (P. intermedius) in an Ethiopian acacia woodland. Ostrich: Journal of African Ornithology 84:235-238.

^Lahti, David C. 2013. Egg. World Book Encyclopedia. Chicago: World Book.

*Moseley, Dana L., David C. Lahti, and Jeff Podos. 2013. Responses to song playback vary with vocal performance of both signal senders and receivers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B280:2013401.

^Loving evolution from a distance (a review of Conor Cunningham’s Darwin’s Pious Idea). Science and Christian Belief25:170-171.

The pdf linked here is the entire review; the published version is an abbreviation.


^Lahti, David C. 2013. Twelve (more) things about the evolution of morality that make people nauseous. In K. Summers & B. Crespi (eds.), Human Social Evolution: The Foundational Works of Richard D. Alexander. New York: Oxford University Press, pp.307-325.

*Johnson, Norman A., David C. Lahti, & Daniel T. Blumstein. 2012. Combatting the assumption of evolutionary progress: lessons  from the decay and loss of traits. Evolution: Education & Outreach. DOI 10.1007/s12052-011-0381-y.

^Lahti, David C. & Carolyn Pytte. 2012. Sleep and bird songs. In D. Barrett & P. McNamara (eds.), Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreams. ABC-CLIO, Santa Barbara.

*Lahti, David C., Dana L. Moseley, & Jeff Podos. 2011. A performance-accuracy tradeoff in bird song learning. Ethology117:1-10.

^*Lahti, David C. 2011. Why humans discover. Euresis Journal 1:75-89.

^Lahti, David C. 2011. Review of Handbook of the Birds of the World, vol. 15: Weavers to New World Warblers. Wilson Journal of Ornithology 123:852-853.



^Lahti, David C. 2009. The place where extinction was discovered. Journal of Field Ornithology 80:438-444.

^*Lahti, David C. 2009. Why we have been unable to generalize about bird nest predation. Animal Conservation 12:279-281.

^*Podos, Jeff, David C. Lahti, & Dana L. Moseley. 2009. Performance limits and birdsong evolution. Advances in the Study of Behavior 40:159-195.

Lahti, David C., Norman A. Johnson, Beverly C. Ajie, Sarah P. Otto, Andrew P. Hendry, Daniel T. Blumstein, Richard G. Coss, Kathleen Donohue, & Susan A. Foster. 2009. Relaxed selection in the wild. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 24:487-496.

^Podos, Jeff & David C. Lahti. 2009. Bird radiations. In R. Gillespie & D. Clague (eds.), Encyclopedia of Islands. Berkkeley: University of California Press, pp.105-111.

^Lahti, David C. 2009. The correlated history of social organization, morality, and religion. In E. Voland & W. Schiefenhövel (eds.), The Evolution of Religious Mind and Behavior. New York: Springer-Verlag, pp.67-88.

*Lahti, David C. 2008. Population differentiation and rapid evolution of egg color in accordance with solar radiation. Auk 126:796-802.

A general hypothesis based on solar damage to embryonic viability may explain observed directional evolution of egg color in introduced village weavers, because theory grounded in this hypothesis predicts that in the absence of brood parasitism egg color should become more blue-green, which is what I observed. Moreover, eggs from the sunnier of two African populations were more blue-green, also in line with the solar radiation hypothesis.

^Lahti, David C. 2007. Birdsong and human speech. In M. Bekoff (ed.), Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

^Lahti, David C. 2007. Birds as symbols in human culture. In M. Bekoff (ed.), Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

^Lahti, David C. 2007. Human effects on birds. In M. Bekoff (ed.), Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

^Lahti, David C. 2007. Similarities in vocal learning between animals and humans. In B. Bekoff (ed.), Encyclopedia of Human-Animal Relationships. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

*Lahti, David C. 2006. Persistence of egg recognition in the absence of cuckoo brood parasitism: pattern and mechanism. Evolution 60:157-168.

^Lahti, David C. 2005. The village weaverbird: marvel or menace? In R. T. Wright & B. J. Nebel, Environmental Science, 9th ed.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, p.96.

(Reappears in slightly altered form in subsequent editions).

*Lahti, David C. & Bret S. Weinstein. 2005. The better angels of our nature: group stability and the evolution of moral tension. Evolution & Human Behavior 26:47-63.

*Lahti, David C. 2005. Evolution of bird eggs in the absence of cuckoo parasitism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S.A. 102:18057-18062.

(Covered by New York TimesUSA TodayNew ScientistCurrent Biology, and others.)  I artificially parasitized (placed foreign eggs into) the nests of the village weaverbird in two African populations and two introduced populations on islands where brood parasites are absent and several egg appearance traits have presumably lost their functionality. In both of these introductions, after approximately seventy-five and one hundred and fifty generations respectively, these egg appearance traits decayed relative to their source populations, in line with evolutionary predictions.

^Lahti, David C. 2004. “You have heard… but I tell you…”: a test of the adaptive significance of moral evolution. In P. Clayton & J. Schloss (eds.) Evolution & Ethics. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, pp.132-150.

Lahti, David C. 2003. Ecology and Evolution of Breeding Adaptations in the Village Weaverbird Ploceus cucullatus. Ph. D Dissertation, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan. 211+xiii pp.

Introduced species can provide rare opportunities to test hypotheses of adaptation and evolution by natural selection. The main part of this dissertation is a test of predictions from two hypotheses regarding the evolution of traits in a colony-nesting African passerine bird, the village weaver (Aves: Ploceidae): (1) Egg appearance characteristics and egg rejection behavior function to direct parental care to offspring; and (2) these traits are maintained by natural selection primarily as counteradaptations to brood parasitism by the egg-mimicking diederik cuckoo Chrysococcyx caprius. Predictions from these hypotheses were met by observations and egg-replacement experiments in four populations (The Gambia, South Africa, Mauritius, and Hispaniola) between 1999 and 2001. A comparative study between two natural weaver populations in sympatry with the diederik cuckoo, and two introduced populations that have been in allopatry with the diederik cuckoo for 115 and >200 years respectively, demonstrates a decline in anti-parasite adaptations in the absence of the cuckoo. Within-clutch variability in egg color and spotting increased, and between-individual variability decreased. Decay of these traits correlated with duration of divergence from the respective source populations. The efficiency of egg rejection behavior also declined, but solely as a byproduct of the evolution of egg appearance characteristics; no decline in the perceptual or cognitive basis for egg recognition occurred. This contributes to our understanding of (1) coevolution or reciprocal adaptation between brood parasites and their hosts; (2) natural selection and evolution in wild populations over brief time spans; and (3) the dynamics of trait decay.

*Lahti, David C. & Robert B. Payne. 2003. Morphological and behavioural evidence of relationships of the cuckoo-finch Anomalospiza imberbis. Bulletin of the British Ornithologists’ Club 123:113-124.

What are the phylogenetic affinities of the African passerine Anomalospiza imberbis? This bird has been variously considered a canary, finch, and weaver since it was described. Evidence based on skeletal features, feathers and their tracts, musculature, and song and other behavior agree with molecular evidence that this species is a highly derived African finch in family Viduidae.

*Lahti, David C. 2003. Parting with illusions in evolutionary ethics. Biology & Philosophy18:639-651.

^*Lahti, David C. 2003. A case study in invasive species assessment: the village weaverbird Ploceus cucullatusAnimal Biodiversity & Conservation 26:45-54.

What does recent work in the biology of species invasions predict about the village weaverbird, a harmful agricultural pest native to Africa? Several reviews have identified traits that correlate with the probability of establishment and spread of a bird population in a new habitat. I incorporate these traits into a case study of the village weaverbird (Ploceus cucullatus) and find them to be consistent with a high probability of introduction and invasion success in this species.

*Lahti, David C. 2003. Cactus fruits may facilitate village weaverbird (Ploceus cucullatus) breeding in atypical habitat on Hispaniola. Wilson Bulletin 115:487-489.

*Lahti, David C., April R. Lahti, & Mansa Dampha. 2002. Associations between nesting village weavers Ploceus cucullatus and other animal species in The Gambia. Ostrich73:59-60.

*Lahti, David C. & April R. Lahti. 2002. How precise is egg discrimination in weaverbirds? Animal Behaviour 63:1135-1142.

Are the variable eggs and egg rejection behavior of the village weaver Ploceus cucullatus adaptations that aid in the direction of parental care? Experiments on nests in The Gambia demonstrate that several traits relating to egg appearance and egg rejection behavior function in the avoidance of brood parasitism (other birds’ eggs laid in the nest), as suggested earlier based on captive birds. Moreover, the village weaver is remarkably refined in its ability to tell subtle differences in color, and rejects eggs in proportion to the difference between her own eggs and a foreign egg in color and spotting pattern (including the density, size, and aggregation of spots), with color being more important than spotting.

*Lahti, David C. 2001. The ‘edge effect on nest predation’ hypothesis after 20 years. Biological Conservation 99:365-374.

Does predation on avian nests increase near habitat edges? A review of 56 studies shows that the edge effect on nest predation is not as common as is usually assumed, although its existence is favored under certain predator regimes and in highly fragmented landscapes.



^Lahti, David C. & April R. Lahti. 1999. The village weaver: a common bird of uncommonly great concern. Daily Observer. Banjul, The Gambia, 2 October.

Lahti, David C. An Appraisal of Ethical Naturalism. Ph.D. Dissertation, Moral Philosophy. The Whitefield Institute Oxford. 242+viii pp.

Front matter and Introduction

Chapter 1: An exposition of ethical naturalism

Chapter 2: An interpretation of twentieth century critique of naturalism

Chapter 3: Evolutionary naturalism in ethics: an approach described and criticised

Chapter 4: Synthetic naturalism and the argument from moral experience

What is the proper way for ethical theories to access scientific information in the development and support of their claims? Within the philosophical category of naturalism, where ethical theories restrict themselves to principles, properties, and terms germane to science, three general forms of ethical theory can be distinguished, which I describe as logical, semantic, and synthetic. Logical naturalists appeal to the validity of the logical progression from premises without moral terms to conclusions with them. Semantic naturalists appeal to an analytical equivalence between certain nonmoral and moral expressions. I argue that both of these approaches have been thoroughly and effectively criticized in the twentieth century. Recently, naturalist ethical theorists have begun a direct appeal to synthetic facts that can be employed or referred to in scientific explanations. Effective critique of naturalist theories of this newer type involves examination of both the scientific and the ethical claims made. I describe the range of tests an ethical theorists can employ to test such theories, and apply it to one such synthetic naturalist approach to ethics as a case study: the idea that evolutionary biology explains away or undermines human morality. I focus in particular on the evolutionary naturalism proposed by Michael Ruse. Critique based on a thorough examination of both the science of evolutionary psychology/sociobiology and the moral philosophy involved in Ruse’s theory yields informative conclusions, rendering his theory implausible from both perspectives. In light of this case study, I develop a general strategy of philosophical and scientific assessment which has general potential for critique of naturalistic ethical theories. This strategy, which I call the Argument from Moral Experience, compares descriptive claims regarding the fundamental nature of morality that are presented or implied by ethical theories, with individual phenomenological reports. Arguments of this type can participate in an exploration of whether or not naturalistic theories provide appropriate understandings or explanations of morality.

Lahti, David C. 1995. The Edward Payson Vining Collection: A Guide to Literature Dealing with the American Indian. Wenham, MA: Gordon College. 424+xxxiii pp.