Dr Emmanuelle Briolat
Stella Turk Building G3.06
University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, Penryn, TR10 9FE
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, 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. Since then, the central theme of my research has been coloration and visual communiation in Lepidoptera. My PhD investigated the form and function of warning signals in day-flying burnet moths (Lepiodptera: Zygaenidae), focusing in particular on the question of quantitative signal honesty in these species. As a research assistant, I am currently exploring the effects of artificial lighting on the visual ecology of nocturnal hawkmoths.
Aside from academic research, I regularly write popular science articles for the MRC’s Biological Picture of the Day website, and have published a children's book on the visual defences of moths and butterflies.
Broad research specialisms:
- Behavioural Ecology
- Sensory Ecology
2018: PhD (University of Exeter)
2012 : BA (Hons, 1st class) in Natural Sciences – Zoology (Girton College, University of Cambridge)
Project Title: Insect warning signals and predator vision
Funding Body: BBSRC SWDTP
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.