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 at Chapel Hill 1996

  • B.A., Swarthmore College 1988

Zylinski, S, and Johnsen, S. "Visual cognition in deep-sea cephalopods: What we don’t know and why we don’t know it." In Cephalopod Cognition, 223-241. January 1, 2014. Full Text

Marshall, J, and Johnsen, S. "Camouflage in marine fish." In Animal Camouflage: Mechanisms and Function, 186-211. January 1, 2011. Full Text

Marshall, NJ, Powell, SB, Cronin, TW, Caldwell, RL, Johnsen, S, Gruev, V, Chiou, T-HS, Roberts, NW, and How, MJ. "Polarisation signals: a new currency for communication." The Journal of Experimental Biology 222, no. Pt 3 (February 7, 2019). (Review) Full Text

Ritschard, EA, Fitak, RR, Simakov, O, and Johnsen, S. "Genomic signatures of G-protein-coupled receptor expansions reveal functional transitions in the evolution of cephalopod signal transduction." Proceedings. Biological Sciences 286, no. 1897 (February 2019): 20182929-null. Full Text

Foster, JJ, Kirwan, JD, El Jundi, B, Smolka, J, Khaldy, L, Baird, E, Byrne, MJ, Nilsson, D-E, Johnsen, S, and Dacke, M. "Orienting to polarized light at night - matching lunar skylight to performance in a nocturnal beetle." The Journal of Experimental Biology 222, no. Pt 2 (January 28, 2019). Full Text

Schweikert, LE, Fitak, RR, Caves, EM, Sutton, TT, and Johnsen, S. "Spectral sensitivity in ray-finned fishes: diversity, ecology and shared descent." The Journal of Experimental Biology 221, no. Pt 23 (November 27, 2018). Full Text

Schweikert, LE, Caves, EM, Solie, SE, Sutton, TT, and Johnsen, S. "Variation in rod spectral sensitivity of fishes is best predicted by habitat and depth." Journal of Fish Biology (November 4, 2018). Full Text

Fitak, RR, Caves, EM, and Johnsen, S. "Orientation in Pill Bugs: An Interdisciplinary Activity to Engage Students in Concepts of Biology, Physics & Circular Statistics." American Biology Teacher 80, no. 8 (October 1, 2018): 608-618. Full Text

Caves, EM, Green, PA, Zipple, MN, Peters, S, Johnsen, S, and Nowicki, S. "Categorical perception of colour signals in a songbird." Nature 560, no. 7718 (August 2018): 365-367. Full Text

Dreyer, D, Frost, B, Mouritsen, H, Günther, A, Green, K, Whitehouse, M, Johnsen, S, Heinze, S, and Warrant, E. "The Earth's Magnetic Field and Visual Landmarks Steer Migratory Flight Behavior in the Nocturnal Australian Bogong Moth." Current Biology : Cb 28, no. 13 (July 2018): 2160-2166.e5. Full Text

Fitak, RR, Schweikert, LE, Wheeler, BR, Ernst, DA, Lohmann, KJ, and Johnsen, S. "Near absence of differential gene expression in the retina of rainbow trout after exposure to a magnetic pulse: implications for magnetoreception." Biology Letters 14, no. 6 (June 2018). Full Text


Thomas, KN, Vecchione, M, and Johnsen, S. "What big eyes you have: Eye allometry and visual range in deep-sea cephalopods." March 2017.

Caves, EM, Brandley, NC, and Johnsen, S. "Visual acuity in fish: the effects of eye morphology, environment, and ecology." March 2016.


Selected Grants

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

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

Long-range Geomagnetic Navigation in Sea Turtles: An Interdisciplinary Approach to awarded by University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill (Principal Investigator). 2014 to 2019

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

Dynamic Camouflage in Benthic and Pelagic Cephalopods: awarded by Office of Naval Research (Principal Investigator). 2009 to 2015

Collaborative Research: Midwater animal models: Optical measurement of metabolic transitions awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2009 to 2013

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 Condition awarded by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Principal Investigator). 2005 to 2006