Caro Lab

Tim Caro

Behavioral/evolutionary ecologist and conservation biologist


Coloration, conservation and charismatic species

Research areas

1. Coloration in mammals. My principal research agenda in 2021 is to understand the evolutionary and ecological factors shaping the external appearances of mammals. I use phylogenetic methods to make comparisons across species, sophisticated photographic analyses to comprehend how mammals match their background (giant pandas and black-and-white colobus), and simple experiments with horses to understand why zebras are striped. I work with Martin How, Natasha Howell, Ossi Nokelainen, Nick Scott-Samuel, Catherine Sheard, Ted Stankowich and Sandra Winters on these projects.

2. Coloration in crabs: Working with undergraduates, we use comparative methods to appreciate the adaptive significance of crab and anemone coloration and defence strategies and will start simple field experiments in 2021. In addition, I study the function and genetic mechanisms underlying the red/blue color polymorphism in the world’s largest terrestrial arthropod, the coconut crab at my field site in Pemba, Zanzibar. I work together with Vicky Morgan and Martin Stevens.

3. Conservation strategies in tropical ecosystems: I am interested in the effectiveness of community-based, government-led and NGO conservation projects to protect remaining forest patches and natural ecosystems in Tanzania. I join forces with Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, Andy Dobson, Alex Piel and Jason Riggio on these projects.

4. Practical solutions to conservation problems on mainland Tanzania and Zanzibar: I work with LCMO, a Tanzanian NGO that is involved in conservation education and preventing traditional lion killing in western Tanzania; with the Department of Forestry to conserve forests and coconut crabs on Pemba Island, Zanzibar; and with Chumbe Island Coral Park, Zanzibar to protect coconut crabs. I collaborate with Ulli Kloiber, Jonathan Kwiyega and Emmanuel Stephens.

Written and edited by Tim Caro