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Dr Shelby Temple

Visual ecology

My interests are generally in behaviour and evolution, but specifically: visual ecology, neuroethology, visual psychophysics, and aquaculture.


Fish spitting

Recent highlights

Approaches and Methods

Psychophysical tests

  • innate responses (startle responses, movement tracking, optomotor/optokinetic)
  • Landolt-C
  • Learned behaviours
  • operant conditioning

Direct observation of behaviours


Retinal topography

Electron microscopy


Model systems

Fishes: archerfish (Toxotes chatareus, T. jaculatrix); salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch); zebrafish (Danio rerio), snook (Centropomus parallelus); barramundi (Lates calcarifer);

Cephalopods: octopus (Octopus cyanea, Hapalochlaena fasciata, Abdopus aculeatus); cuttlefish (Sepia plangon, Sepia officinalis,Sepioloidea lineolata ); squid (Sepiotheuthis lessoniana)

Crustaceans: Stomatopods (Haptosquilla trispinosa); fiddler crab (Uca perplexa)

Primates: Human (Homo sapiens)

Research keywords

  • retina
  • eye
  • visual pigments
  • ethology
  • neuroethology
  • polarization vision
  • e-vector
  • fish
  • cephalopod
  • chromophore
  • animal behaviour
  • microspectrophotometer
  • intraretinal variation in spectral sensitivity

Research findings

A new medical diagnostic test for assessing eye health and potential risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) the leading cause of incurable blindness in the Western world.

Translating science into commercial technology...

I have invented a device that can rapidly assess a person's macular pigment density, which is a primary risk factor for AMD.

By adapting the technology we developed for testing polarization vision in cuttlefish and octopus, we have recently been testing how well humans can see the polarization of light. In so doing, we discoved a large amount of variability in the ability for humans to see a visual phenomenon called Haidinger's brushes (the human perception of the orientation of polarized light).

The variability in human polarization sensitivity may be linked to eye health, as the Haidinger's brushes phenomenon is due to the orientation and density of macular pigments (carotenoids: lutien, zeaxanthin and meso-zeaxanthin). These macular pigments are concentrated around your central retina and play an important role in protecting the eye from damaging short wave-length radiation and oxidative stress in an area of the eye with little to no blood flow.

Low macular pigment density has been correlated with increased likelihood of developing AMD, and because you can only acquire macular pigments through your diet it is important to assess you macular pigment density as an indicator of eye health. increasing one's acular pigments through diet has also been shown to help glare reduction and increase contrast sensitivity, to important factors in overall visual performance.

I plan to develop a market ready device that can pe incorporated into regular eye health checks to help people determine if their macular pigments are low so that they can correct the situation early in life to imporve their vision and reduce their chances of being at risk for central vision loss through age-related macular degeneration.




  • Prof. Shaun Collin (University of Western Australia Australia) Dr. Simon Kamir Das (Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Malaysia) Assoc
  • Prof. Nathan Hart (University of Western Australia Australia) Prof. Justin Marshall (The University of Queensland Australia) Dr. Jan Hemmi (The Australian National University) Dr. Ulrike Siebeck (The University of Queensland Australia) Dr. Jeremy Ullmann (The University of Queensland Australia)