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

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

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

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

Granger, Jesse, Lucianne Walkowicz, Robert Fitak, and Sönke Johnsen. “Gray whales strand more often on days with increased levels of atmospheric radio-frequency noise.Current Biology : Cb 30, no. 4 (February 2020): R155–56. Full Text

Caves, Eleanor M., Stephen Nowicki, and Sönke Johnsen. “Von Uexküll Revisited: Addressing Human Biases in the Study of Animal Perception.Integrative and Comparative Biology 59, no. 6 (December 2019): 1451–62. Full Text

Harris, Olivia K., Alexandra C. N. Kingston, Caitlin S. Wolfe, Soumitra Ghoshroy, Sönke Johnsen, and Daniel I. Speiser. “Core-shell nanospheres behind the blue eyes of the bay scallop Argopecten irradians.Journal of the Royal Society, Interface 16, no. 159 (October 23, 2019): 20190383. Full Text

Caves, Eleanor M., Catherine Chen, and Sönke Johnsen. “The cleaner shrimp Lysmata amboinensis adjusts its behaviour towards predatory versus non-predatory clients.Biology Letters 15, no. 9 (September 18, 2019): 20190534. Full Text

Schweikert, Lorian E., Eleanor M. Caves, Sarah E. Solie, Tracey T. Sutton, and Sönke Johnsen. “Variation in rod spectral sensitivity of fishes is best predicted by habitat and depth.Journal of Fish Biology 95, no. 1 (July 2019): 179–85. Full Text

Zipple, Matthew N., Eleanor M. Caves, Patrick A. Green, Susan Peters, Sönke Johnsen, and Stephen Nowicki. “Categorical colour perception occurs in both signalling and non-signalling colour ranges in a songbird.Proceedings. Biological Sciences 286, no. 1903 (May 29, 2019): 20190524. Full Text

Marshall, N Justin, Samuel B. Powell, Thomas W. Cronin, Roy L. Caldwell, Sonke Johnsen, Viktor Gruev, T-H Short Chiou, Nicholas W. Roberts, and Martin J. How. “Polarisation signals: a new currency for communication.The Journal of Experimental Biology 222, no. Pt 3 (February 7, 2019). Full Text


Johnsen, S., and G. D. Ruxton. “Join Now! The increased visibility of large groups of aquatic and aerial organisms is far outweighed by the benefits of aggregation.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 57:E305–E305. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2017.

Thomas, K. N., M. Vecchione, and S. Johnsen. “What big eyes you have: Eye allometry and visual range in deep-sea cephalopods.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 57:E429–E429. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2017.

Caves, E. M., C. C. Chen, and S. Johnsen. “Coarse vision isn't useless vision: cleaner shrimp use monochromatic, low-resolution vision to detect client fish.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 57:E221–E221. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2017.

Bagge, L. E., and S. Johnsen. “Anti-reflective invisibility cloak: monolayers of spheres reduce cuticle reflectance in hyperiid amphipods.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 57:E197–E197. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2017.

Thomas, K. N., B. H. Robison, and S. Johnsen. “The perks of being cock-eyed: Orientation and visual characteristics of histioteuthid squids.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 56:E221–E221. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2016.

Johnsen, S., Y. L. Gagnon, N. J. Marshall, and T. W. Cronin. “Another beautiful hypothesis slain by an ugly fact: Polarization vision does not increase the sighting distance of silvery fish.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 56:E103–E103. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2016.

Bagge, L. E., S. T. Kinsey, and S. Johnsen. “The limits of an invisibility cloak: transparent shrimp become opaque after multiple tail-flipping escapes.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 56:E9–E9. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2016.

Brandley, N., E. Caves, and S. Johnsen. “Do warning signals exploit an evolutionary constraint on insect visual acuity?” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 56:E23–E23. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2016.

Johnsen, S. “What Next? Unanswered questions about extraocular photoreception and how we might answer them.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 56:E103–E103. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2016.

Caves, E. M., N. C. Brandley, and S. Johnsen. “Visual acuity in fish: the effects of eye morphology, environment, and ecology.” In Integrative and Comparative Biology, 56:E32–E32. OXFORD UNIV PRESS INC, 2016.


Selected Grants

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

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

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