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 Emmanuelle Briolat

Emmanuelle Briolat

PhD student

 Tremough House MG18


Tremough House, University of Exeter,  Penryn Campus, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9FE, UK

I have broad interests in behavioural ecology and evolutionary biology, but am especially fascinated by animal communication and visual signalling.

Before beginning my PhD, I worked as a research assistant in two very different groups, studying first camouflage in cuttlefish, then parental behaviour in burying beetles. As part of my BBSRC funding, I also completed a short rotation project in the Psychology Department at the University of Exeter, focusing on edge perception and flight behaviour in bumblebees. My current project investigates the form and function of aposematic, or warning signals, using day-flying moths as a study system. 

Aside from academic research, I regularly write popular science articles for the MRC’s Biological Picture of the Day website, and have also written for Biosphere magazine.

Broad research specialisms:

  • Behavioural Ecology
  • Sensory Ecology


2012 : BA (Hons, 1st class) in Natural Sciences – Zoology (Girton College, University of Cambridge)


Research projects

Project Title: Insect warning signals and predator vision

Supervisors: Martin Stevens and Jon Blount

Funding Body: BBSRC SWDTP

Project Description:
This project examines warning colouration in Lepidoptera, with a particular emphasis on how these are perceived by their avian predators. Key aims are to establish how avian predation has shaped the form of lepidopteran signals, whether these signals reliably predict toxicity in a quantitatively honest way, and how toxicity and colouration interact to produce optimal defence strategies. In the first instance, I will be photographing museum specimens of Lepidoptera, to map the colours and patterns of their wing to avian visual models. This will then enable large-scale comparative analyses of the key features of moth wing patterning, depending on their toxicity and activity patterns. The remainder of my work will focus on one family, the burnet moths (Zygaenidae), brightly-coloured day-flying moths, which both sequester toxic cyanogenic glycosides from their host-plants and synthesize these compounds themselves. A combination of fieldwork, photography and toxicity analyses will allow me to test the relationship between colouration and toxicity in these moths, both within and across species, to address the issue of honesty in signalling.

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