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Credit: R Huang

Animals assess one another using signals in a range of contexts that are critically important for survival and reproduction, from mate choice to agonistic encounters. The receiver’s interpretation of assessment signals is dependent upon both perceptual processes and the signaling environment, yet current research is largely limited to understanding how sensory organs process information. We know little about how information from the sensory organs is processed in the brain in non-human animals, i.e. how the physical attributes of a signal are linked to behavioral outcomes. Our research in this area uses behavioral assays to examine how animals respond to variation in signal form and information.


Ongoing Projects

  • Proportional processing of stimulus magnitude in swordtail fish, in collaboration with Dr. Laura Kelley
    • this project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement, No 793454
  • Categorical perception of color signals in finches (in collaboration with Dr. Stephen Nowicki and Dr. Sönke Johnsen)


Relevant Publications

EM Caves, LE Schweikert, PA Green, C Taboada, MN Zipple, S Peters, S Nowicki, and S Johnsen. 2020. Variation in retinal carotenoids correlates with variation in perception of carotenoid coloration. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. DOI:10.1007/s00265-020-02874-5

EM Caves, S Nowicki, and S Johnsen. 2019. Von Uexküll revisited: Addressing human biases in the study of animal perception. Integrative and Comparative Biology. DOI:10.1093/icb/icz073

MN Zipple*, EM Caves*, PA Green, S Peters, S Johnsen, and S Nowicki. 2019. Categorical perception in non-signalling versus signalling color ranges in a songbird. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: 286, 20190524

EM Caves*, PA Green*, MN Zipple, S Peters, S Johnsen, and S Nowicki. 2018. Categorical perception of colour signals in a songbird. Nature. 560: 365–367.


Affiliated Researchers

Assistant Professor
Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology
Vision, behavioral ecology, animal behavior, evolution; visual perception in animals; signaling behavior, form, and perception.