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Fake eyes? – How Eyespots work
Friday 20, May, 2016 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Dr. Karin Kjernsmo – CamoLab, School of Biological Sciences – University of Bristol
Why do animals look and behave the way they do?
Abstract: The ongoing evolutionary arms race between predators that try to outsmart their prey, and prey which in turn tries to avoid getting eaten has resulted in an impressive variety of morphological and behavioural adaptations. The numerous ways animals can use their colour patterns to avoid getting eaten provided Wallace and Darwin with important examples for illustrating and defending their ideas of natural selection and adaptation. Eyespots are a prominent example of such colour patterns. Consisting of roughly concentric rings of contrasting colours, they have received their name because to humans they often resemble the vertebrate eye. Eyespots are common in many terrestrial taxa such as insects (particularly in the order Lepidoptera), birds and reptiles, and they are also widespread in many aquatic taxa such as molluscs, flatworms and fishes. Because of their salience and taxonomically wide occurrence, eyespots have intrigued naturalists and biologists for more than a century, but disentangling their adaptive and functional significance has proven to be quite a challenge.
In this talk, I will present the results of our recent studies investigating the anti-predator utility of eyespots. The adaptive value and function of eyespots have received much attention and have been studied particularly in terrestrial systems, but far less is known about them in aquatic systems. This is despite the fact that all types of protective coloration found in terrestrial environments also exist in the aquatic environment and have probably initially evolved there. In order to study the functions and adaptive value of eyespots in aquatic environments, I have developed an “aquatic novel world”, where I use naïve, visually hunting fish as predators, and artificial prey. As you will see, eyespots provide numerous ways for prey to manipulate predator behaviour and that way decrease predation risk.
Biography: My education began in Sweden, where I obtained a BSc and MSc degree in Zoology at the University of Gothenburg. I then moved to Turku, Finland, where I completed my PhD project entitled “Anti-predator Adaptations in Aquatic Environments” (supervised by Dr. Sami Merilaita, åbo Akademi Univ. and Prof. Jörgen I. Johnson, Univ. of Gothenburg) at Åbo Akademi University. In late July 2015, I moved from Turku to Bristol and started working in the Camo Lab as a Research Associate, on a 3-year BBSRC funded project investigating whether iridescence can be deceptive (lead by Prof. Innes Cuthill, Dr. Nick Scott-Samuel & Dr. Heather Whitney).