Dr Kathryn Feller

2015: Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Ecology of Vision Laboratory, University of Bristol.

2014: PhD Student, University of Maryland Baltimore County, MD, USA. Dissertation: "The visual ecology of stomatopod larvae". Advisor: Prof. Thomas W. Cronin

2006: Bachelor of Science in Biology and Environmental Science, William Smith College, Geneva, New York, USA. Honors thesis: "Characterization of ultraviolet opsin proteins in the retinae of two subspecies of microchiropteran bat". Advisor: Dr. Kristy L. Kenyon.


My research predominately uses the larvae, or babies, of stomatopod crustaceans (commonly known as mantis shrimp) as a model for addressing diverse questions in the field of visual ecology. Though at first glance stomatopod larvae appear to be less developed versions of their wildly interesting and complex adult counterparts, these larvae are in fact adapted for a very different type of life-style. The larval phase of life is almost entirely spent surviving in the open ocean as part of the planktonic ecosystem. This is in stark contrast to the adult phase, which is spent living almost exclusively on the bottom, or benthos, of the ocean. As a result, larvae evolved compound eyes that perform larval-specific behaviours in a larval-specific light environment. A remarkable feature of stomatopod larval visual ecology is their ability to camouflage in the open water. 

Their spiny, glass-like bodies are almost completely transparent to light, making them nearly invisible to predators as they swim through the open water. Curiously, the only visible part of their body are their eyes, which must express opaque pigments to maintain their function. To mitigate this compromise to their invisibility, glittery structures overlie the opaque regions of the eye and reflect light matched in colour (or wavelength) to the background in which they are swimming. The result is an elegant camouflage solution that does not affect a larva’s ability to see! The initial characterisation of stomatopod larval eye glitter (see picture) as a camouflage was accomplished during my PhD training at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (USA) in the laboratory of Thomas Cronin. While a postdoc at the University of Bristol I am working to characterise the photonics of these structures and how they evolved in different species. I am also characterising the role of newly discovered photonic structures found within stomatopod larval photoreceptors and how they affect the visual sensitivity of the animals that express them.


Feller, KD and TW Cronin. In preparation.  Visual pigments absorption in mantis shrimp larvae (Crustacea, Stomatopoda).

Roberts, NW; Jordan, T; Wilby D; Chiou TH; Feller, KD; & Cronin, TW. In review. A shape-anisotropic reflective polarizer in a stomatopod crustacean. Scientific Reports.

Geheber, AD; Davis, DR; Watters, JL; Penrod, ML; Feller, KD; Davey, CS; Ellsworth, ED; Flanagan, RL; Heitz, BD; Moore, T; Nguyen, MC; Roberts, A; Sutton, J; Sanguila, MB; Linkem, CW; Brown, RM; & Siler, CD. In review. Description of a new species of Phillipine Slender Skink of the Brachymeles bonitae Complex (Reptilia: Squamata: Scincidae: Brachymeles) from Lubang Island. Zootaxa.

Feller, KD, JH Cohen, and TW Cronin. Accepted. Seeing double: visual physiology of double-retina eye ontogeny in stomatopod crustaceans. Journal of Comparative Physiology A.

Davis, D, KD Feller, and C Siler. In press.  Evaluating the diversity of Philippine slender skinks of the Brachymeles bonitae complex (Reptilia:Squamata: Scincidae): Redescriptions of B. bonitae and B. tridactylus, and descriptions of two additional new species. The Journal of Herpetology.

Feller, KD & TW Cronin. 2014. Chaper 8: Sensory Ecology of Vision. In: The natural history of crustaceans: Crustacean nervous systems and their control of behavior. C. Derby & M. Thiel (eds.), Vol III. Oxford University Press.

Feller, KD and TW Cronin. 2014.  Hiding opaque eyes in transparent organisms: In situ spectral and image contrast analysis of eyeshine in stomatopod larvae. The Journal of Experimental Biology. 217, 1-11 doi:101242/jeb.108076

How, MJ; ML Porter; AN Radford; KD Feller; SE Temple; RL Caldwell; NJ Marshall; TW Cronin; & NW Roberts. 2014. Out of the blue: The evolution of horizontally polarized signals in Haptosquilla(Crustacea, Stomatopoda, Protosquillidae). The Journal of Experimental Biology. doi: 10.1242/eb.107581

Feller, KD, TW Cronin, ST Ahyong, ML Porter.  2013.  Morphological and molecular description of late-stage Alima Leach, 1817 (Crustacea: Stomatopoda) larval types from Lizard Island, Australia.  Zootaxa. 3722(2): 22-32.

Feller, KD. 2013. Subclass Hoplocarida Calman, 1904: Order Stomatopoda Latreille, 1817: Larvae. In: Treatise on Zoology – Crustacea. FR Schram & JC von Vaupel Klein (eds.), vol. 4A: 257-269. Brill, Leiden.

Gumm, JM, KD Feller, TC Mendelson.  2011.  Spectral characteristics of male nuptial coloration in darters (Etheostoma).  Copeia.  2011(2): 319-326.

Feller, KD, S Langerholm, R Clubwala, MT Silver, D Haughey, JM Ryan, ER Loew, ME Deutschlander, & KL Kenyon.  2009.  Characterization of photoreceptor cell types in the little brown bat Myotis lucifugus (Vespertilionidae). Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part B: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 154(4):412-418.