Liliana D'Alba

Liliana D'Alba

I am an evolutionary biologist with a passion for animal forms and colors. My research focuses on the relationship between the structure and function of phenotypic traits. I follow an integrative approach, using optics, computer simulations, field biology and phylogenetic comparative methods to investigate how animal colors (in particular structural) are produced, how they change over time and the functions they serve.

I also have a deep interest in the role of the environment on shaping morphological and functional diversity in vertebrate eggs, which I investigate in birds and reptiles.

Keywords

Iridescence, melanin, feather development, comparative analyses, paleocolor, nesting ecology, egg coloration, eggshell structure.

Research
interest

The main question that drives my research is why do we see such remarkable diversity in animal forms and color. In particular I focus on the evolution of animal coloration and vertebrate eggs.

One central aspect of my research is that I focus on nanostructures. So what are nanostructures? Looking closely at an iridescent feather of a hummingbird one would notice the different branches that compose the feather, and inside them, is a complex network of protein and air and also numerous dark organelles named melanosomes, which containing melanin (a very important pigment for life). Both of these components are nanostructures, which can have diverse configurations resulting in very interesting functions including the production of some of the most brilliant colors in nature.

Iridescent hummingbird feather seen under the microscope
Network of keratin and air inside feathers produces blue color

Current
topics

A selection of the topics I am working on currently.

Tricolor fur

Evolution and function of animal coloration

The colors of animal integuments (e.g. skin, feathers, hair) are produced by a variety of pigment molecules, nanostructures, or a combination of both. Although clearly less colorful than other vertebrates, mammals nevertheless have a diverse array of…
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Key
publications

For a full list of my publications see my Google profile

All publications

PhD
supervision

Naturalis aims to be a breeding ground for international scientific talent. Therefore, PhD's have a special position in our organisation.

reptile specimens

Teaching
activities

I teach the following topics at Ghent University:

Introduction to Biomimicry