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NERC DTP BC243: Co-evolution of colour vision and coloration in colourful songbirds

Supervisor: Dr Nick Mundy

Project summary:

The project will investigate whether sexual selection on bright red and yellow coloration in birds is reflected in evolution of colour vision. This will be achieved by examining evolution and expression of major genes involved in two components of colour vision, the opsin photopigments and coloured oil droplets. The main study system is the ploceid finches, which have large variation in carotenoid-based sexually selected plumage coloration, from red to yellow to an absence of bright coloration. 

What the student will be doing:

The main component is labwork to sequence and quantify expression in the target genes. There will be some fieldwork in Africa to collect samples, and an opportunity to do some colour vision modelling.


Mundy, N. I. et al. (2016) Red carotenoid coloration in the zebra finch is controlled by a cytochrome P450 gene cluster. Current Biology 26, 1435-1440.

Bloch, N. (2015) Evolution of opsin expression in birds driven by sexual selection and habitat. Proceedings of Royal Society B, 282, 20142321.

Additional information:

Funding is available for this project via the NERC Cambridge Climate, Life and Earth (C-CLEAR) Doctoral Training Partnership – please refer to their website for more information: