Caro Lab


I carry out research on the functional significance of external coloration in animals, and on strategies to conserve habitats and species in the tropics.

Animal coloration

Evolution of coloration in mammals

Most mammals are drab browns and greys but a few are notable for their striking coloration. I am interested in these exceptions and have worked on zebra, giant panda, and skunk external appearances using observations and comparative analyses.  I am currently involved in two separate projects looking at zebra striping.



The significance of color polymorphisms in coconut crabs

Coconut crabs are the largest terrestrial arthropod and come in two color morphs. Given they are nocturnal, have few predators, and are principally herbivores, I am trying to solve the mystery of why they have such different coloration. This research is also targeted at conserving this charismatic species, exploited for food throughout its range.


Conservation biology

Conservation of forest fragments on Pemba, Tanzania

In 2015, I started a collaborative project with Monique Borgerhoff Mulder to understand the social factors associated with good forest management on Pemba. This island has several endemic species and I am monitoring biodiversity (butterflies) as an indicator of forest health.


Conservation programs around Katavi National Park

Following 20 years of research in Katavi National Park, western Tanzania, I am now involved with practical conservation projects in that area. I work with two Tanzanian managers trying to halt lion killing in protected areas and conducting a conservation education program.



Linking two disciplines: animal behavior and conservation biology

I explore conceptual links between animal behavior and conservation. Many students are keen to apply the insights gained in animal behavior over the last 35 years to contemporary loss of species but this is a difficult task demanding clear thinking.



I teach courses on conservation biology, behavioral ecology, and animal coloration. I particularly encourage minority graduate students to join my lab.

Some Publications:

  • Caro, T. 2016. Zebra Stripes. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  • Caro, T., and Davenport, T.R.B. 2016. Wildlife and wildlife management in Tanzania. Conservation Biology30, 716-723.
  • Caro, T, Izzo, M., Reiner, B.C., Walker, H., and Stankowich, T. 2014. The function of zebra stripes. Nature Communications 5:3535 | DOI:10.1038/ncomms4535.
  • Stankowich, T., Havercamp, P. and Caro, T. 2014. Ecological drivers of antipredator defenses in carnivores. Evolution 68, 1415-1425.
  • Caro, T. and Sherman, P.W. 2011. Endangered species and a threatened discipline: behavioural ecology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 26, 111-118.
  • Caro, T. 2005. Antipredator Defenses in Birds and Mammals. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Books written by Tim Caro