Colours function as messages among members of the same species, as well as for researchers

According to Professor Johanna Mappes, colours tell us about the development of vision in animals and how it adapts to the environment.

What are your research topics?

I study how and why colours are produced and used in nature. Colours tell me how organisms adapt to their environment. Their relevance is related to, among other things, physiology, hiding from others and signalling.

Colours are important for animals when they communicate with other species and members of their own species.

Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?

Research on colours helps understand how the vision of animals has evolved and adapted to different environments. Such knowledge explains how animals learn signals and what makes different objects attractive or intimidating.

For us humans too, colours have great significance in the arts, culture and aesthetics. Colours even have an effect on our moods and purchase decisions.

What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?

Recent breakthroughs in molecular biology and technology have greatly advanced colour-related research.

We are better able to understand and measure how and why different animals see colours. For instance, we have the capacity to determine the genetic code underlying the beautiful wing patterns of butterflies.

Johanna Mappes is a professor of ecology at the Faculty of Biological and Environmental Sciences.

Watch Johanna Mappes’ inaugural lecture as a new professor on 24.5.2021 on YouTube.

Read about the other newly appointed professors.