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Professor Innes Cuthill - University of Bristol. Bristol, , GB

Professor Innes Cuthill Professor Innes Cuthill

Professor of Behavioural Ecology | University of Bristol


Innes Cuthill's research has helped change the way behavioural ecologists and ethologists study animal coloration.

Areas of Expertise (5)

Human Applications of Camouflage

Vision of Birds

Animal Camouflage

Animal Colouration

Vision of Fish


Professor Innes Cuthill is Professor of Behavioural Ecology in the School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol. He specialises in the use of camouflage in animals – and how such techniques can be adapted for human applications of both camouflage and detection (such as by the military and the defence industry, for masking eyesores such as phone masts, and for better visibility of warning signs, emergency vehicles and cyclists). His initial research explored the colour vision of birds and how this is used in the detection of prey.

His work has helped to change the way behavioural ecologists and ethologists study animal coloration. In showing that species differ radically in their visual systems, and by importing techniques and concepts from psychology and computer vision, he has vastly expanded understanding of the adaptive value of colour. This has been recognised by the award of a Scientific Medal of the Zoological Society of London for contributions to zoology by a scientist, and by a Scientific Medal from the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour. Innes is a former President of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour and served for 12 years as a trustee of Bristol Zoo.






Dinosaur Camouflage/ Curr. Biol., Sep. 15, 2016 (Vol. 26, Issue 18)



Accomplishments (3)

Selected by Biological Reviews as one of their highlight papers of the last 200 years.


Medal of the Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (the leading European professional association in the area) for contributions to the field.


Invited to write the Thomas Henry Huxley Review for the Journal of Zoology


Education (2)

Pembroke College, University of Oxford: D.Phil., Zoology 1985

Corpus Christi College, University of Cambridge: B.A., Natural Sciences 1982

Affiliations (4)

  • Member, Executive Committee, Applied Vision Association
  • Member, Editorial Board of the journals Perception and i-Perception
  • Member, Newton Advanced Fellowships Panel of The Royal Society
  • Reviews Editor, Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Media Appearances (5)

We Might Finally Understand Why Glass Frogs Have Strangely Transparent Skin

Science Alert  online


"In truth, we are only beginning to unravel how different forms of camouflage actually work," explains behavioural ecologist Innes Cuthill from the University of Bristol in the UK. "Glass frogs illustrate a new mechanism that we hadn't really considered before."

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Poison dart frogs use their bright colors as camouflage

Earth.com  online


“How many other animals use ‘distance-dependent coloration’ to balance competing evolutionary pressures is yet to be explored,” said study co-author Professor Innes Cuthill. “Being able to signal when close to a would-be mate, whilst remaining inconspicuous to more distant predators would seem beneficial.”

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Bright warning colours on poison dart frogs also act as camouflage

McGill Newsroom  online


Co-author Professor Innes Cuthill from the University of Bristol added: “How many other animals use ‘distance-dependent coloration’ to balance competing evolutionary pressures is yet to be explored. “Being able to signal when close to a would-be mate, whilst remaining inconspicuous to more distant predators would seem beneficial. So too for human applications such as military camouflage, where recognition by allies is as important as concealment from foes. Also, signage that only need be clear at the distance where the information is needed, but might be distracting if detected earlier.”

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A Brilliant Disguise: Confused Bees Reveal How Iridescence May Actually Be Camouflage

Forbes  online


In animals, colors are produced either by pigments or by tiny, light-scattering nanostructures. While an impressive range of pigments exists in living organisms, these are ultimately limited by biochemistry. Structural color, on the other hand, is not only able to achieve a wider range of color, but that color can also appear to change with the angle of incident light and the movement of the animal.

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The effectiveness of 3-D camouflage

PhysOrg  online


Lead author Professor Innes Cuthill, from the University of Bristol's School of Biological Sciences, said: "It's a simple idea but, because shadows are much sharper in direct sun than shade, the best countershading should vary strongly with the environment the animal lives in."

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Articles (5)

Pattern contrast influences wariness in naïve predators towards aposematic patterns


2020 An apparent and common feature of aposematic patterns is that they contain a high level of achromatic (luminance) contrast, for example, many warning signals combine black spots and stripes with a lighter colour such as yellow. However, the potential importance of achromatic contrast, as distinct from colour contrast, in reducing predation has been largely overlooked.

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Data for Imperfect transparency and camouflage in glass frogs

University of Bristol

2020 Imperfect transparency and camouflage in glass frogs. There are no personal data, human-related content or copyright issues associated with any of the material.

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Iridescence as Camouflage

Current Biology

2020 Iridescence is a striking and taxonomically widespread form of animal coloration, but that its intense and varying hues could function as concealment rather than signaling seems completely counterintuitive. Here, we show that the color changeability of biological iridescence, produced by multilayer cuticle reflectors in jewel beetle (Sternocera aequisignata) wing cases, provides effective protection against predation by birds.

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CamoGAN: Evolving optimum camouflage with Generative Adversarial Networks

Methods in Ecology and Evolution

2019 Historically, camouflage has been considered a prominent example of an evolutionary arms‐race between prey and predators, whereby one species gradually evolves harder‐to‐see colouration which, as a consequence, exerts evolutionary pressure on the other species for a more effective detection system.

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Camouflage in a dynamic world


2019 We review how animals conceal themselves in the face of the need to move, and how this is modulated by the dynamic components and rapidly varying illumination of natural backgrounds. We do so in a framework of minimising the viewer’s signal-to-noise ratio. Motion can match that of the observer such that there is no relative motion cue, or mimic that of background objects (e.g. swaying leaves). F

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