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Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2017 Jul 5;372(1724). pii: 20160352. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2016.0352.

The current and future state of animal coloration research.

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Centre for Integrative Ecology, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Waurn Ponds, Victoria 3216, Australia
Centre of Excellence in Biological Interactions, Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, PO Box 35, University of Jyväskylä, FI-40014, Finland.


Animal colour patterns are a model system for understanding evolution because they are unusually accessible for study and experimental manipulation. This is possible because their functions are readily identifiable. In this final paper of the symposium we provide a diagram of the processes affecting colour patterns and use this to summarize their functions and put the other papers in a broad context. This allows us to identify significant 'holes' in the field that only become obvious when we see the processes affecting colour patterns, and their interactions, as a whole. We make suggestions about new directions of research that will enhance our understanding of both the evolution of colour patterns and visual signalling but also illuminate how the evolution of multiple interacting traits works.This article is part of the themed issue 'Animal coloration: production, perception, function and application'.


animal colour patterns; colour pattern evolution; colour pattern functions

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