E&E Seminar: Dazzling displays: function and perception of iridescence and gloss

Some of the most spectacular visual effects in the animal kingdom are those that change with movement. For example, brilliant iridescent feathers that shift colour with viewing angle, or reflective, highly glossy beetles that look like little mirrors. Whilst these effects have inspired scientists, naturalists and artists for centuries, we still have a poor understanding of the perception and function of iridescence and gloss. Knowledge of the visual capabilities of a receiver is necessary to understand the function of iridescence or gloss. Jewel beetles are renowned for beautiful iridescent and glossy colours, but we do not know how they perceive these colours. I will discuss our experiments investigating jewel beetle visual capabilities and why their vision is distinctive. Most research investigating the function of iridescence or gloss has focused on animal communication. However, recent evidence indicates that iridescence or gloss can also function to improve survival from predators. I will discuss our experiments investigating the protective role of extreme gloss, including future directions. Together, these projects offer insight into beetle visual ecology and the function of changeable colours in nature.


Amanda is a Melbourne Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Melbourne researching animal visual systems and animal colour patterns. She is currently investigating the evolution and function of different visual effects (e.g. gloss, iridescence), and how these visual effects are perceived by animals. Prior to her postdoc, Amanda worked at the Victorian Environmental Protection Authority as a data scientist, helping to identify pollution and direct EPA resources. Amanda completed her PhD as a Fulbright Science and Technology fellow at Tufts University in Boston, where she researched visual communication and camouflage in stomatopod crustaceans.