Reef fish exhibit an astonishing array of colours and patterns.

Some of these fish are even able to change their colours rapidly depending on the situation they are in. In addition to the amazing colours we as humans see, many fish can also see and use ultraviolet (UV) as a colour to communicate in their environment. As a research group we are particularly interested in addressing fundamental questions relating to what fish see and how this impacts their general ecology through both intra- and inter- species communication, feeding, camouflage and predation.


or over 20 years Justin and his group have used an integrated approach incorporating, spectrometry, microspectrometry, electrophysiology, microscopy, anatomy, neuro-anatomy, molecular techniques, behaviour and ecology to answer these fundamental questions. While reef fish remain the mainstay of this section of the lab, sharks, cichlids and lungfish are also on the agenda. Why are Malawi cichlids coloured like reef fish? We are working with close collaborator Karen Carleton on this. Why does a lungfish look like a parrot? How do we determine what colours fish actually see? (see the new video below as Naomi Green explains)

Possible projects with fish include:

  • Reef fish vision and colour patterns
  • Individual species or family visual ecology – pick a fish, come and work it up.
  • Why are reef fish spectral sensitivities so variable? Visual ecology gone bad!
  • Molecular biology and evolution of spectral sensitivities in reef fish.
  • Does a predator’s colour and pattern affect its success?
  • Does the colour and pattern of a prey species affect its survival rate?
  • Vision and colours of freshwater fish, cichlids and lungfish.

See our publications page for the following key publications:

  • Siebeck and Marshall, 2001, Vision Res.
  • Marshall et al 2003, Copea
  • Losey et al 2003, Copea.
  • Hart et al 2004, J Exp Biol.
  • Cheney et al 2009, Current Biology.
  • Dalton et al, 2010 J Exp Biol.
  • Hofmann et al 2010 Vision Res.
  • Smith et al. 2011, Molecular Ecology.
  • Marshall and Johnsen 2011, Animal Camouflage.
  • Marshall and Cheney 2013, The New Visual Neurosciences.