Sonke Johnsen

Professor of Biology

301 Bio Sci Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Duke Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338
(919) 660-7321


  • Ph.D., University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill 1996

  • B.A., Swarthmore College 1988

Marshall, J., and S. Johnsen. “Camouflage in marine fish.” In Animal Camouflage: Mechanisms and Function, 186–211, 2011. Full Text

Leech, D. M., and S. Johnsen. “Light, Biological Receptors.” In Encyclopedia of Inland Waters, 671–81, 2009. Full Text

Johnsen, Sönke, Kenneth J. Lohmann, and Eric J. Warrant. “Animal navigation: a noisy magnetic sense?The Journal of Experimental Biology 223, no. Pt 18 (September 23, 2020). Full Text

Ernst, David A., Robert R. Fitak, Manfred Schmidt, Charles D. Derby, Sönke Johnsen, and Kenneth J. Lohmann. “Pulse magnetization elicits differential gene expression in the central nervous system of the Caribbean spiny lobster, Panulirus argus.Journal of Comparative Physiology. A, Neuroethology, Sensory, Neural, and Behavioral Physiology 206, no. 5 (September 2020): 725–42. Full Text

Davis, Alexander L., Kate N. Thomas, Freya E. Goetz, Bruce H. Robison, Sönke Johnsen, and Karen J. Osborn. “Ultra-black Camouflage in Deep-Sea Fishes.Current Biology : Cb 30, no. 17 (September 2020): 3470-3476.e3. Full Text

Schweikert, Lorian E., Alexander L. Davis, Sönke Johnsen, and Heather D. Bracken-Grissom. “Visual perception of light organ patterns in deep-sea shrimps and implications for conspecific recognition.Ecology and Evolution 10, no. 17 (September 2020): 9503–13. Full Text

Taboada, Carlos, Andrés E. Brunetti, Mariana L. Lyra, Robert R. Fitak, Ana Faigón Soverna, Santiago R. Ron, María G. Lagorio, et al. “Multiple origins of green coloration in frogs mediated by a novel biliverdin-binding serpin.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 117, no. 31 (August 2020): 18574–81. Full Text

Caves, E. M., L. E. Schweikert, P. A. Green, M. N. Zipple, C. Taboada, S. Peters, S. Nowicki, and S. Johnsen. “Variation in carotenoid-containing retinal oil droplets correlates with variation in perception of carotenoid coloration.” Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 74, no. 7 (July 1, 2020). Full Text Open Access Copy

Davis, Alexander L., Tracey T. Sutton, William M. Kier, and Sönke Johnsen. “Evidence that eye-facing photophores serve as a reference for counterillumination in an order of deep-sea fishes.Proceedings. Biological Sciences 287, no. 1928 (June 10, 2020): 20192918. Full Text

Davis, Alexander L., H Frederik Nijhout, and Sönke Johnsen. “Diverse nanostructures underlie thin ultra-black scales in butterflies.Nature Communications 11, no. 1 (March 10, 2020): 1294. Full Text

Johnsen, Sonke. “Journey into Midnight.” Oceanography 33, no. 1 (March 2020): 96–96.

Fitak, Robert R., Benjamin R. Wheeler, and Sönke Johnsen. “Effect of a magnetic pulse on orientation behavior in rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss).Behavioural Processes 172 (March 2020): 104058. Full Text


Solie, S. E., and S. Johnsen. “Contrast Sensitivity and Spatial Resolution in the Trinidadian Guppy (Poecilia reticulata).” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 60:E421–E421, 2020.

Nowicki, S., E. M. Caves, L. E. Schweikert, P. A. Green, C. Taboada, M. N. Zipple, S. Peters, and S. Johnsen. “Carotenoid Concentration in Avian Retinal Oil Droplets Correlates with Color Discrimination Across a Perceptual Category Boundary.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 60:E175–E175, 2020.

Johnsen, S., and E. M. Caves. “How our perceptual and cognitive biases may influence our study of animal vision.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 60:E113–E113, 2020.

Schweikert, L. E., A. L. Davis, S. Johnsen, and H. D. Bracken-Grissom. “Vision and Bioluminescence in Deep-sea Shrimps: Implications for Conspecific Recognition.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 60:E209–E209, 2020.

Davis, A. L., H. F. Nijhout, and S. Johnsen. “Convergent evolution of ultra-black butterfly scales.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 60:E53–E53, 2020.

Go, M., J. C. Notar, and S. Johnsen. “Associative learning in the brittle star Ophioderma brevispinum.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 60:E329–E329, 2020.

Harris, O. K., A. C. N. Kingston, N. R. Steichmann, S. Johnsen, and D. I. Speiser. “How and why are the blue eyes of scallops blue?” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 60:E96–E96, 2020.

Fitak, R. R., B. R. Wheeler, L. C. Naisbett-Jones, M. M. Scanlan, D. L. G. Noakes, and S. Johnsen. “Time-dependent Characterization of Candidate Magnetoreception Genes in the Brain of Chinook Salmon.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 60:E71–E71, 2020.

Notar, J. C., and S. Johnsen. “Trends in Spatial Acuity Across the Sea Urchins.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 60:E388–E388, 2020.

Granger, J., L. Walkowicz, R. Fitak, and S. Johnsen. “Gray Whales Strand More Often on Days With Increased Levels of Atmospheric Radio Frequency Noise.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 60:E89–E89, 2020.


Eleanor M., Caves, Green Patrick A., Zipple Matthew N., Peters Susan, Johnsen Sonke, and Nowicki Stephen. “Data and scripts from: Categorical perception of colour signals in a songbird,” 2018. Full Text

Selected Grants

The International Human Frontier Science Program Organization awarded by International Human Frontier Science Program Organization (Principal Investigator). 2018 to 2021

Long-range Geomagnetic Navigation in Sea Turtles: An Interdisciplinary Approach to Localizing Magnetite-based Biological Magnetoreceptors awarded by University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2020

The Sigsbee Deep Expedition- Exploration of light in the water column below 1000m awarded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Principal Investigator). 2017 to 2020

Bioluminescence in the Deep-sea Benthos II awarded by Nova Southeastern University (Principal Investigator). 2015

Operation Deep-Scope 2007: Characterization of cliff ecosystems using new technologies awarded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Principal Investigator). 2007 to 2009

Collaborative Research: Transparency: Ultrastructural and biochemical specialization in muscular and ocular tissues awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2005 to 2009

Selective Invisibility Based on the Differing Temporal Resolutions of Sea Turtles and Billfish Under Low Light Conditions awarded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Principal Investigator). 2005 to 2006