Email: mcs66 at cam.ac.uk
Stoddard is now a Junior Fellow at Harvard University, USA
PhD research explores avian colour perception and the evolution
of eggshell colour, pattern, and structure. Even to the human
eye, the world of egg colour is vibrant and varied. But how do
these eggs appear to birds, whose visual systems are far more
advanced than our own? My research with Dr. Rebecca
Kilner, Dr. Martin Stevens,
and Dr. Camilla
Hinde involves analyzing eggshells using methods based on
avian – not human – vision in order to appropriately
investigate egg colour and pattern variation in a phylogenetic
context. This work, based in the ornithological collections of
the Natural History Museum, Tring, and the Cambridge University
Museum of Zoology, uses digital imaging and avian visual processing
models to evaluate eggs as birds see them. Specifically, I am
interested in developing new techniques to quantify a bird’s-eye
view of egg colour and pattern mimicry in the common cuckoo, which
lays its eggs in the nests of other species. I am also interested
in the function of eggshell speckling in passerines. In 2009 and
2010, I conducted field experiments to test whether egg patterning
affects incubation and provisioning effort by great tit parents.
an undergraduate at Yale, I studied plumage colour evolution with
Dr. Richard Prum.
We used a model of avian tetrahedral colour space to describe
phylogenetic patterns of plumage evolution in New World buntings.
My senior thesis documented the evolution of various structural
and pigmentary colour mechanisms in bird feathers. In the summer
of 2007, I investigated gull breeding ecology with Dr. Julie Ellis
at Cornell University’s Shoals Marine Laboratory on Appledore
visual systems of birds, many other reptiles, and many fish
include four colour-sensitive retinal cone-types. As a consequence,
their colour vision is more complex than human colour vision.
Stoddard and Prum (2008) developed a new computational tool
that allows users to model visual colour stimuli for these tetrahedral
visual systems. TETRACOLORSPACE is a computer program developed
for the tetrahedral analysis of colours measured from reflectance
spectra or from four cone stimulus values, using MATLAB 7 software
(MathWorks, Natick, MA).
TETRACOLORSPACE can analyze colours based on the ultraviolet
or violet cone-type avian visual systems, or can use cone-sensitivity
functions input by the user. TETRACOLORSPACE provides an assortment
of quantitative analyses and graphical tools for describing
colour stimulus variation and diversity. Details are available
in Stoddard and Prum (2008).
TETRACOLORSPACE is provided for free here. When using the program,
please cite the original publication:
Stoddard, M. C. & Prum, R. O. 2008. Evolution of avian plumage
color in a tetrahedral color space: A phylogenetic analysis
of new world buntings. American Naturalist, 171, 755-776.
the TETRACOLORSPACE User’s Manual.
the new Beta version of TETRACOLORSPACE.
Please email mcs66 at cam.ac.uk to be added to a user list for
receiving version updates.
here for a complete list)
M.C. 2012. Mimicry and masquerade from the avian visual perspective.
Current Zoology 58: 630-648.
M.C., A. Fayet, R.M. Kilner, and C. Hinde. 2012. Egg Speckling
Patterns Do Not Advertise Offspring Quality or Influence Male
Provisioning in Great Tits. PLoS ONE 7: e40211. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040211.
M.C., K. Marshall, and R.M. Kilner. 2011. Imperfectly camouflaged
avian eggs: artefact or adaptation? Avian Biology Research
M.C. and R.O. Prum. 2011. How colorful are birds? Evolution
of the avian plumage color gamut. Behavioral Ecology
M.C. & Stevens, M. 2011. Avian vision and the evolution
of egg color mimicry in the common cuckoo. Evolution
M.C. and M. Stevens. 2010. Pattern mimicry of host eggs by
the common cuckoo, as seen through a bird's eye. Proceedings
of the Royal Society, Series B 277:1387-93.
M., M. C. Stoddard, and J.P. Higham. 2009. Studying primate
color: towards visual system dependent methods. International
Journal of Primatology: 1-25.
M.C. and R.O. Prum. 2008. Evolution of avian plumage color
in a tetrahedral colour space: a phylogenetic analysis of
New World buntings. American Naturalist 171:755–776.
Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, Downing Street,
Cambridge CB2 3EJ, U. K.