Prof John Endler



Alfred Deakin Professor


Faculty of Sci Eng & Built Env


School of Life & Env. Sciences


Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus


Doctor of Philosophy, University of Edinburgh, 1973

+61 3 522 71313

Research interests

The interaction between sensory systems, signals, and the environment, and using these interactions to predict the direction of evolution under known environmental conditions.

My three main projects involve Bowerbirds, Guppies and Bearded Dragons and involve a mixture of field work, field experiments, lab experiments, and modelling.

I am always happy to have PhD students with similar interests, but they do not have to work with one of these three systems.  I've also had students working with various kinds of insects and spiders.

Here is a little more detail on my three main projects:

Signal design and its relationship to the environment and geometry in Bowerbirds.  Just how does the complex geometry and resulting multiple visual tricks and illusions created by great bowerbirds effect mating success and how and why do they repair problems in their bower geometry so quickly?  What insights can these birds and their bowers give us about how animals perceive the world and act upon sensory information--true or misleading?

Experimental evolution under known changed conditions in laboratory mesocosms (very large tanks) and wild guppy populations.   How do changed visual environments (mimicking changes in the forest canopy as a result of climate change) affect visibility of mates to females hence the direction of evolution of male displays, and how does this affect the evolution of female mating preferences and the visual system.   How does artificial selection for chasing particular colours affect female preferences, male traits and the visual system?  What are the effects in the field of canopy thinning on wild guppy populations?  Multiple minor projects resulting from these main questions.

The interaction between colour change, visual functions (within-species signalling and anti-predation), thermal balance, and environmental conditions in Bearded Dragon lizards.  Given that bearded dragons change colour in response to environmental cues as well as in response to other individuals how do they trade off the resulting changes in heat balance and visibility to potential mates, territory intruders, and potential predators?  How does this vary geographically?

Units taught

current: Evolutionary Ecology (SLE372)

Knowledge areas

Evolutionary Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Sensory Ecology, Behavioural Ecology.  The interaction between sensory systems, signals, the environment, and how this can be used to predict the direction of evolution.


Evolutionary Ecology, Sensory Ecology (particularly Visual Ecology), Evolutionary Biology, Behavioral Ecology, mathematical and computer modelling within these subjects. I know and enjoy programming in MATLAB, PASCAL, occasionally in FORTRAN and I'm actively learning R.
  • Behaviour
  • Biology
  • Computers
  • Ecology

Professional activities

I do science whenever I can and however I can!  Science for it's own sake, formally (e.g. international meetings and collaborations) and informally (discussions, natural history).

Research groups

Centre for Integrative Ecology

Sensory Ecology and Behaviour (within the School of Life & Environmental Sciences)


Fellow, Australian Academy of Sciences

Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Exemplar, Animal Behaviour Society (their highest honour to a non-retired scientist).

Alfred Deakin Professor (Deakin University's highest academic honour).


Filter by


A comparative study of rhodopsin function in the great bowerbird (Ptilonorhynchus nuchalis): spectral tuning and light-activated kinetics

Ilke Van Hazel, Sarah Dungan, Frances Hauser, James Morrow, Prof John Endler, Belinda S. W. Chang

(2016), Vol. 25, pp. 1308-1318, Protein science, Hoboken, N.J., C1


Colour change on different body regions provides thermal and signalling advantages in bearded dragon lizards

Kathleen Smith, Viviana Cadena, Prof John Endler, Warren Porter, Michael Kearney, Dr Devi Stuart-Fox

(2016), Vol. 283, pp. 1-9, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: biological sciences, London, Eng., C1


Male courtship decisions are influenced by light environment and female receptivity.

Dr Gemma Cole, Prof John Endler

(2016), Vol. 283, pp. 1-9, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: biological sciences, London, Eng., C1


Color change for Thermoregulation versus camouflage in free-ranging lizards

Kathleen Smith, Viviana Cadena, Prof John Endler, Michael Kearney, Warren Porter, Dr Devi Stuart-Fox

(2016), Vol. 188, pp. 668-678, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1


Illusions vary because of the types of decorations at bowers, not male skill at arranging them, in great bowerbirds

Natalie R. Doerr, Prof John Endler

(2015), Vol. 99, pp. 73-82, Animal behaviour, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, C1


The bright incubate at night: sexual dichromatism and adaptive incubation division in an open-nesting shorebird

Mr Kasun Ekanayake, A/Prof Mike Weston, Dr Dale Nimmo, Dr Grainne Maguire, Prof John Endler, Clemens Kupper

(2015), Vol. 282, pp. 1-8, Proceedings of the royal society of London: biological sciences, London, Eng., C1


An integrative framework for the appraisal of coloration in nature

Darrell J Kemp, Marie Herberstein, Leo Fleishman, Prof John Endler, Prof Andy Bennett, Adrian Dyer, Nathan S. Hart, Prof Justin Nicholas Marshall, A/Prof Martin Whiting

(2015), Vol. 185, pp. 705-724, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1


Artificial selection for food colour preferences

Dr Gemma Cole, Prof John Endler

(2015), Vol. 282, pp. 1-9, Proceedings of the royal society of London: biological sciences, London, Eng., C1


Variable environmental effects on a multicomponent sexually selected trait

Dr Gemma Cole, Prof John Endler

(2015), Vol. 185, pp. 452-468, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1


White sharks exploit the sun during predatory approaches

Charlie Huveneers, Dirk Holman, Rachel Robbins, Andrew Fox, Prof John Endler, Alex H. Taylor

(2015), Vol. 185, pp. 562-570, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1


Red-green-blue electrogenerated chemiluminescence utilizing a digital camera as detector

Egan H. Doeven, Mr Gregory Barbante, Miss Emily Kerr, Dr Conor F Hogan, Prof John Endler, Prof Paul Francis

(2014), Vol. 86, pp. 2727-2732, Analytical chemistry, Washington, D.C., C1


Paradox lost: variable colour-pattern geometry is associated with differences in movement in aposematic frogs

Bibiana Rojas, Jennifer Devillechabrolle, Prof John Endler

(2014), Vol. 10, pp. 1-5, Biology letters, London, England, C1


Visual effects in great bowerbird sexual displays and their implications for signal design

Prof John Endler, Julie Gaburro, Dr Laura Kelley

(2014), Vol. 281, pp. 1-10, Proceedings of The Royal Society B, London, Eng., C1


Male sexual behaviour and ethanol consumption from an evolutionary perspective: a comment on "Sexual deprivation increases ethanol intake in Drosophila"

Dr Palestina Guevara Fiore, Prof John Endler

(2014), Vol. 8, pp. 234-236, Fly, Abingdon, Eng., C1-1


Sexual dimorphism and intra-populational colour pattern variation in the aposematic frog Dendrobates tinctorius

Bibiana Rojas, Prof John Endler

(2013), Vol. 27, pp. 739-753, Evolutionary ecology, Berlin, Germany, C1


How can ten fingers shape a pot? Evidence for equivalent function in culturally distinct motor skills

Enora Gandon, Reinoud J Bootsma, Prof John Endler, Leore Grosman

(2013), Vol. 8, pp. 1-9, PLoS ONE, San Francisco, Calif., C1


Functional characterization of spectral tuning mechanisms in the great bowerbird short-wavelength sensitive visual pigment (SWS1), and the origins of UV/violet vision in passerines and parrots

Ilke Van Hazel, Amir Sabouhanian, Lainy B. Day, Prof John Endler, Belinda S. W. Chang

(2013), Vol. 13, pp. 1-13, BMC evolutionary biology, London, England, C1


Bowerbirds, art and aesthetics : are bowerbirds artists and do they have an aesthetic sense?

Prof John Endler

(2012), Vol. 5, pp. 281-283, Communicative and integrative biology, Austin, Tex., C1


Male spotted bowerbirds propagate fruit for use in their sexual display

Joah R. Madden, Caroline Dingle, Jess Isden, Janka Sparfeld, Anne W Goldizen, Prof John Endler

(2012), Vol. 22, pp. R264-R265, Current biology, Cambridge, Mass., C1


A framework for analysing colour pattern geometry : adjacent colours

Prof John Endler

(2012), Vol. 107, pp. 233-253, Biological journal of the Linnean Society, Oxford, England, C1


How the ladybird got its spots : effects of resource limitation on the honesty of aposematic signals

J.D. Blount, Hannah M. Rowland, Falko P. Drijfhout, Prof John Endler, Richard Inger, John J. Sloggett, Gregory D D Hurst, David J. Hodgson, Michael P Speed

(2012), Vol. 26, pp. 334-342, Functional ecology, Oxford, England, C1


Illusions promote mating success in great bowerbirds

Dr Laura Kelley, Prof John Endler

(2012), Vol. 335, pp. 335-338, Science, Washington, D. C., C1


Male great bowerbirds create forced perspective illusions with consistently different individual quality

Dr Laura Kelley, Prof John Endler

(2012), Vol. 109, pp. 20980-20985, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Washington, D.C., C1


Sex as moderator of early life experience : interaction between rearing environment and sexual experience in male guppies

Dr Palestina Guevara Fiore, Dr Andreas Svensson, Prof John Endler

(2012), Vol. 84, pp. 1023-1029, Animal behaviour, London, England, C1


Learned vocal variation is associated with abrupt cryptic genetic change in a parrot species complex

Dr Raoul Ribot, Prof Kate Buchanan, Prof John Endler, Dr Leo Joseph, Prof Andy Bennett, Dr Mathew Berg

(2012), Vol. 7, pp. 1-9, PLoS One, San Francisco, Calif., C1


Geographic variation in allometry in the guppy (Poecilia reticulata)

C. K. Egset, G. H. Bolstad, Gunilla Rosenqvist, Prof John Endler, Christophe Pelabon

(2011), Vol. 24, pp. 2631-2638, Journal of evolutionary biology, Oxford, U. K., C1


Integrative commentary on ecology and evolution of poeciliid fishes

Prof John Endler

(2011), pp. 301-310, Ecology and evolution of poeciliid fishes, Chicago, Ill., B1


Great bowerbirds create theaters with forced perspective when seen by their audience

Prof John Endler, Dr Lorna Endler, Natalie R. Doerr

(2010), Vol. 20, pp. 1679-1684, Current biology, Cambridge, Mass., C1


The spatial pattern of natural selection when selection depends upon experience

Prof John Endler, Bibiana Rojas

(2009), Vol. 173, pp. 62-78, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1-1


Predicting the direction of ornament evolution in Trinidadian guppies (Poecilia reticulata)

Darrell J Kemp, David N Reznick, Gregory F Grether, Prof John Endler

(2009), Vol. 276, pp. 4335-4343, Proceedings of the Royal Society B : biological sciences, London, England, C1-1


The adaptive significance of ontogenetic colour change in a tropical python

David T. R. Wilson, Robert Heinsohn, Prof John Endler

(2007), Vol. 3, pp. 40-43, Biology letters, London, England, C1-1


Ornament colour selection, visual contrast and the shape of colour preference functions in great bowerbirds, Chlamydera nuchalis

Prof John Endler, Lainy B. Day

(2006), Vol. 72, pp. 1405-1416, Animal behaviour, London, England, C1-1


Disruptive and cryptic coloration

Prof John Endler

(2006), Vol. 273, pp. 2425-2426, Proceedings of the Royal Society B: biological sciences, London, England, C1-1


Animal visual systems and the evolution of color patterns; sensory processing illuminates signal evolution

Prof John Endler, Dr David Westcott, Joah R. Madden, Tim Robson

(2005), Vol. 59, pp. 1795-1818, Evolution : international journal of organic evolution, Oxford, England, C1-1


Comparing entire colour patterns as birds see them

Prof John Endler, Paul W Mielke Jr

(2005), Vol. 86, pp. 405-431, Biological journal of the linnean society, Oxford, England, C1-1


The complex business of survival by aposematism

Johanna Mappes, Nicola Marples, Prof John Endler

(2005), Vol. 20, pp. 598-603, Trends in ecology and evolution, London, England, C1-1


Extreme reversed sexual dichromatism in a bird without sex role reversal

Robert Heinsohn, S. M. Legge, Prof John Endler

(2005), Vol. 309, pp. 617-619, Science, Washington, DC, C1-1


Predator mixes and the conspicuousness of aposematic signals

Prof John Endler, Johanna Mappes

(2004), Vol. 163, pp. 532-547, American naturalist, Chicago, Ill., C1-1


Modification of the visual background increases the conspicuousness of golden-collared manakin displays

J. Albert C. Uy, Prof John Endler

(2004), Vol. 15, pp. 1003-1010, Behavioral ecology, Cary, N.C., C1-1


Morphological signals of sex and status in spotted bowerbirds

Joah R. Madden, Prof John Endler, Francine Jury

(2004), Vol. 104, pp. 21-30, Emu, Melbourne, Vic., C1-1


Environmental variation and the maintenance of polymorphism : the effect of ambient light spectrum on mating behaviour and sexual selection in guppies

Shenagh Gamble, Anna K Lindholm, Prof John Endler, Robert C Brooks

(2003), Vol. 6, pp. 463-472, Ecology letters, Oxford, England, C1-1



Australian Competitive Grants

Testing evolutionary predictions about multiple unrelated traits under changed environmental conditions using visual ecology

Prof John Endler

ARC - Discovery Projects

  • 2013: $142,404
  • 2012: $137,128
  • 2011: $132,048

The adaptive significance of visible and infrared colour change

Dr Devi Stuart-Fox, Prof John Endler

ARC - Discovery Projects

  • 2014: $10,000
  • 2013: $10,000
  • 2012: $5,000

Experimental evolution of trait interactions under changed environments

Prof John Endler

ARC - Discovery Projects

  • 2017: $94,566
  • 2016: $178,678
  • 2015: $183,224

How different is different: highly contrasting colours in animal patterns

Dr Karen Cheney, Prof Justin Marshall, Prof John Endler, Prof Daniel Osorio

ARC - Discovery Projects

  • 2017: $10,000
  • 2016: $20,000
  • 2015: $20,000

Industry and Other Funding

Requirements for mating success in Great Bowerbirds

Prof John Endler, Ms Aida Izabela Rodrigues Repolho

  • 2015: $5,000

Bowerbird sexual peccadillos: The role of great bowerbirds on savannah vegetation dynamics.

Prof John Endler, Miss Jessica Hodgson

  • 2016: $6,000
  • 2015: $6,000

The unexplored consequences of great bowerbird sexual displays on savannah vegetation dynamics.

Prof John Endler, Miss Jessica Hodgson

  • 2016: $3,000


Principal Supervisor

Gemma Cole

Thesis entitled: Estimatig the evolutionary link between food detection and mate choice

Doctor of Philosophy (Life & Env), School of Life and Environmental Sciences


Bibiana Andrea Rojas Zuluaga

Thesis entitled: The apparent paradox of colour variation in aposematic poison frogs

Doctor of Philosophy (Life & Env), School of Life and Environmental Sciences