Dr Swidbert R. Ott

Reader in Animal Biology











Adrian Building, Room 301

Tel: +44 (0)116 252 3479

Fax: +44 (0)116 252 3330

Email: so120@le.ac.uk

Personal details

  • Behavioural Neuroscience
  • Phenotypic Plasticity
  • Locust Phase Change
  • Brains and Behaviour
  • Comparative Neuroanatomy


  • BS3064 Comparative Neurobiology (Module Co-Convenor)
  • BS1070 Adaptation and Diversity
  • BS2066 Behavioural Neuroscience (Module Co-Convenor)
  • BS2077 Neurobiology and Animal Behaviour (Module Convenor)


I am interested in how the behaviour of an animal is shaped by the interactions between its evolutionary history, its individual history (past experience), and the present environment that it finds itself in. Some major themes in my current work are

  • what molecular, neuronal and neurochemical mechanisms mediate phenotypic plasticity of behaviour
  • how the capacity for behavioural plasticity is itself plastic, and modified by experience, on the phylogenetic and ontogenetic scale
  • how simple mechanistic rules and environmental feedback mechanisms facilitate the coordination of adaptive behaviour
  • what changes in brain structure underpin adaptive behavioural changes














Stephen Montgomery and I have a paper in press in The Journal of Comparative Neurology on how different life styles have shaped the evolution of butterfly brains. Unlike their cousins, the moths, typical butterflies are active in bright daylight and therfore strongly visual animals. Here we have studied the brain of Godyris zavaleta, a species of butterfly that lives in the shade of its neotropical forest habitat, and in which the males produce plant-derived pheromones for communication.

We found that the Godyris brain is half-way between nocturnal moths and typical butterflies in terms of the size of its visual and olfatory centres. Moreover, we discovered the first known instance in butterflies of a male-specific 'macro-glomerular complex' (MGC) in the antennal lobe. MGCs are specialisations that support the detection of a particular scent. They are commonly found in insects where a particular scent has a specific and important role in guiding behaviour.

Portrait of a Desert locust, with a view of the brain (yellow) within the head; the brain image was obtained by computer-assisted laser scanning microscopy.

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Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour
University of Leicester
University Road

T: +44 (0)116 252 2922
E: npbenquiries@le.ac.uk


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