Sensory Ecology & Evolution site banner (Jolyon Troscianko)

Welcome to our sensory ecology and evolution group!


We study several areas in sensory and evolutionary ecology, including animal (particularly bird) vision, anti-predator coloration (especially camouflage, warning signals, and eyespots), brood parasitism, and communication. We study animals from many taxonomic groups, including birds, reptiles, crabs, insects, primates, and even humans, with lab and fieldwork both in the UK and abroad. If you are interested in joining or working with us, please get in touch!

We are based in Cornwall at the Penryn Campus of Exeter University, near Falmouth.


You can like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Flickr and also subscribe to our YouTube channel!


Looking into doing an MSc by Research?

There are a number of opportunities in our group, especially for work on camouflage in shore animals. Please get in touch if you're interested.


Recent News

August 25: Martin has a new book coming out in February, all about deception in nature. You can take a first look at what’s in store here.

August 14: Sarah and Sara presented their latest results at Behaviour 2015 this week, sharing their work on warning colouration and camouflage with those at the conference.

August 12: Anna and Martin's new prey capture paper has received a lot of media interest around the world, from the Telegraph and Independent, to the Mail and Mirror: have a look here.

August 12: Anna and Martin have a new paper on how different patterns, such as stripes, may affect prey capture: read it here in Frontiers in Zoology.

August 12: We have a new paper out on camouflage and how sand fleas match the colour and brightness of the different beaches where they grow up: read it here in Biology Letters.

August 11: Martin spoke to Radio Cornwall about our new software and studying animal vision.

August 10: Martin gave a talk at the Telegraph Museum Porthcurno on how animals communicate with colours and patterns.

August 8: Emmanuelle ran an exhibition on moth coloration at Science in the Square, sharing her expertise and passion for sensory ecology with the local community.

August 7: Jolyon and Martin's new paper and software is being covered in the media, from the Independent to the Mail and Washington Post here's an example.

August 6: Jolyon and Martin have a new paper and released some free software for image analysis and modelling animal vision take a look here in Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

July 6: Four visitors have joined us for the summer: Jesús Gómez Esteban (colouration and camouflage in shorebird eggs), Ian Chan (morphological patterns in animals), Rafael Duarte ( colour polymorphism and camouflage in shrimp) and Luis Robledo-Ospina (spider coloration and microhabitat)!

July 4: Sam, Sara and Emmanuelle ran two camouflage workshops for Year 9 students this afternoon. With the aid of stick insects, shore crabs and burnet moths, the students left with a wealth of coloration knowledge!

July 3: Jolyon has been out to Mullion School to show their EcoSoc students what it’s like to see through the eyes of other animals and how we model their vision here in Penryn.

July 2: We have a new paper in PLoS ONE showing that changes in women’s skin colour during the ovulatory cycle can’t be detected by humans. It’s been covered in Huffington Post, Live Science and other outlets.

July 1: Emannuelle and Sara led a colouration workshop on campus, giving Year 12 students from London an insight into sensory ecology research.

June 17: We have a new paper in Proceedings B showing that cuckoo hosts evolve egg signatures that increase information about identity.

June 11: One of our latest papers has been covered in National Geographic and NewScientist.

June 9: Sara and Jenny spent the day sharing our research with the public at Falmouth’s Wild Film Fest!

June 5: Lina, Dominic and Martin have a new paper out on warning coloration, honest signalling and predation risk in ladybirds! Check it out in Scientific Reports.


June 3: Martin and Graeme Ruxton have reviewed the evolutionary ecology of decorating behaviour. Their review is now out in Biology Letters, take a look!

January 15: There is a new review out of Martin’s Sensory Ecology, Behaviour and Evolution textbook. The review can be found here.

December 31: We have a new paper out! Martin, Alice and Louisa have a new paper out in PLoS ONE on individual variation in shore crabs from different habitat types around Cornwall.

December 1: Sam, Jenny, Emmanuelle and Sara have been interviewed about “The Science of Christmas,” an up-coming event on the 3rd December at The Poly, Falmouth. Click here to access the first of their interviews and skip to 1hr51 to listen to Sam and Jenny.

November 12: Some of Martin’s work on eyespots is covered in a BBCearth article describing six ways animals use fake eyes. The article can be found here.

October 16: Our new goby paper is covered by National Geographic, Science Daily, and livescience.

October 16: Martin, Alice and Alex D have a new paper out on colour change in rock gobies which can be found here.

September 13: New paper out in BMC Evolutionary biology on motion dazzle and the effects of pattern on capture success.

September 5: New paper out in Behavioural Ecology on the roles of background matching and disruptive colouration in moths.

September 1: Welcome to Elisa Perez Badas who joins our group for just over two months as a visiting PhD student working on blue tit colouration!

August 29: Our public outreach games and new video on our nightjar work have been covered in a blog article on the guardian online.

August 15: We have completed another successful year of Science in the Square. This year we had Alice, Jenny and Nik helping out with a marine camouflage table.

August 6: New video out on our project nightjar work!

July 28: Kate and Martin have a new paper out on wall lizards using conspicuous signals to conspecifics whilst remaining camouflaged to avian predators.

June 26: New paper out on facial recognition in guenon monkeys.

June: Martin has been made a BBSRC Schools Regional Champion for the South West for all of the outreach work we do.

May 27: New paper out by Lina, Jolyon and Martin on colour contrast and warning signals!

May 19: New paper out on evolution of predators versus parasites!

May 7: Jared appeared on BBC Radio Cornwall, speaking about our new egg hunt game which can be found here!

April 16: We have a brand new game out! It is a camouflaged Easter egg hunt with evolving eggs and a robot nightjar! Give it a go here!

April 11: New paper out by Martin, Alice and Louisa on colour change in juvenile shore crabs.

April 8: Alice and Jared have given talks at the Easter ASAB 2014 conference and Lina Arenas won runner up for best poster!

April 1: A warm welcome to Emmanuelle Biolat and Jenny Easley in our office! Our new PhD and MSc by research students.

March 6: New paper out with Jon Blount at CEC on warning signals in ladybird eggs and adults and maternal effects.

March 2: The BBSRC has made an article and YouTube video about our work on camouflage in birds. In just 10 days it's been viewed by over 280,000 people!

25 February: Martin was on BBC1 The One Show talking about camouflage and colour change in rockpool fish. The show can be seen for a limited time here

February 17: New paper out! Stevens, M. 2014. Confusion and illusion: understanding visual traits and behavior. A comment on Kelley and Kelley. Behavioral Ecology.

January 28: Martin was the programme advisor for the first episode of a new BBC TV series aired today, 'Inside the Animal Mind'. He also appeared in the programme doing an experiment with starling flight and vision.

November 26: New paper out on whether eyespots really do mimic predator eyes.

November 21: Play our new camouflage game ! This time, see if you can find the hidden bird nests.

November 14: PhD opportunity in our group on: Impacts of climate change on intertidal species, camouflage and predation. Co-supervised with Steve Widdicombe at Plymouth Marine Lab.

October 25: A new paper is out - a book review for Animal Behaviour of Diamond and Bond's 'Concealing Coloration in Animals'.

October 23: The BBSRC are making a film about our work on camouflage in birds and predation. That will come out soon, but in the mean time here's a trailer.

October 22: New paper out! It's a short introduction article on cuckoos and other avian brood parasites for Current Biology.

October 17: Martin gave a talk at the Falmouth Aquarium on camouflage in rockpool animals.

October 1: Our cuckoo finch paper is also covered by the New York Times.

October 1: Emmanuelle Briolat has started her PhD in our group! It's on warning signals and honesty of prey defences. She'll move to Cornwall in March after her first lab placement.

September 25: Martin commented on a story for the BBC on a recent decision by a wildlife park to ban animal outfits for fear of confusing the animals. Also covered in Time Magazine.

September 25: Our new paper on cuckoo finches is being covered by a range of media places, including on the BBC.

September 24: Our recent paper on cuckoo finches has been covered by both Wired and Smithsonian Magazine.

September 24: Our new paper is out in Nature Communications ! It shows that cuckoo finches use mimicry and repeatedly laying eggs in the same host nest to confuse hosts and reduce the likelihood of rejection.

September 24: Jolyon and Jared are in Zambia and in the first few days have nearly 40 nests already, including nightjars, plovers, and coursers!

September 15: Jolyon and Jared are on their way to Zambia and the nightjars for phase two of the bird camouflage and bird predation field season. They had a successful season in South Africa: 48 kittlitz's plover nests, 8 white-fronted, 11 blacksmith and 3 chestnut banded plovers!

September 11: Detection and learning of camouflage strategies paper covered by New Scientist, featured under New Scientist Picture of the Day.

September 10: Detection and learning of camouflage strategies paper covered by

September 10: Detection and learning of camouflage strategies paper covered by

September 10: New paper out in PLoS ONE showing detection and learning of camouflage strategies.

September 9: Welcome to Nikoletta Geltsch who joins our group for three months as a visiting PhD student working on cuckoo egg mimicry!

August 16: Check out our brand new website for our work on camouflage in birds!

August 16: We will be taking part in the Science in the Square event in Falmouth, where we will set up our new camouflage citizen science camouflage game 'find the nightjar'.

August 5: Our new field season in South Africa looking at plover camouflage has started well with Jolyon and Jared finding nests already. The first predation footage has been captured too. Have a look here.

July 29: Jolyon and Jared are heading off to South Africa and Zambia to start the new field seasons investigating camouflage in birds. Follow our Facebook and Twitter (@ProjectNightjar and @SensoryEcology) accounts for updates.

July 24: New paper published in Behavioral Ecology on camouflage and distractive markings.

July 17: Martin gave a Cafe Scientifique talk on 'How animals see the world' as part of the Penzance Literary Festival.

July 5: Jolyon Troscianko, Alice Lown, Anna Hughes, Jared Wilson-Aggarwal, Louisa Wood and Alexander Denton attended CamoCon 2013 in Bristol. Here they each did a 1 minute presentation.

June: Martin was featured in the June issue of Gardener's World Magazine when they ran a colour special. Here Martin discussed of the uses of colour in nature.

April 8: Horned ghost crab paper covered by

April 5: Horned ghost crab paper covered by BBC Nature.

April 2: New paper on colour change and camouflage in ghost crabs out in Biol. J. Linn. Soc.

April: New paper out in Beh. Ecol. Sociobiol. on multimodal signalling in rhesus macaques with James Higham at NYU.

March 29: New paper out in TREE - a book review of Schaefer and Ruxton's Plant-Animal Communication (OUP).

March 18: New paper out in J. Evolutionary Biology with Devi Stuart-Fox (Melbourne) on throat colour polymorphism in dragon lizards.

March 5: New paper out in Functional Ecology with Jon Blount at CEC showing how diet affects warning signals in poison frogs.

March 1: Emmanuelle Briolat has been offered and accepted a BBSRC studentship on insect warning signals and honesty to join our group in October. Congratulations Emmanuelle!

February 22: Martin Stevens has been named as a 'Top Referee' for Proceedings B for 2012. The third time in five years!

February 13: New paper out in Proceedings B showing how chick diet affects adult plumage in the hihi

February 4: New Dispatches paper in Current Biology about recent work showing quail choose backgrounds that best camouflage their eggs

February 1-May 26: A new exhibition ‘Abbott Hanerson Thayer: A Beautiful Law of Nature’ will take place in Virginia from February 1 – May 26, 2013 outlining Thayer’s ideas about natural and military camouflage. See: National Sporting Library and Museum.

Copyright © All Rights