Dr Fabio Cortesi

ARC DECRA Research Fellow

Queensland Brain Institute


Doctor Cortesi was awarded a Bachelor of Science with Major in Plant and Animal Biology from the University of Basel, Switzerland in 2008. He completed a Bachelor of Science with 1st Class Honours in the field of Marine Biology in 2009 at the University of Queensland, Australia, researching the colourful displays and toxic defences of sea slugs. He then received a PhD with Summa Cum Laude in Zoology in 2014 from the University of Basel, Switzerland, studying the molecular and behavioural function of colourful signals in coral reef fishes.

After completing his remaining Swiss National Service duties, Doctor Cortesi moved to Australia in 2015 to start a short-term postdoctoral appointment within the School of Biological Sciences at The University of Queensland. Upon winning prestigious postdoctoral fellowships from the Swiss National Sicence Foundation and the University of Queensland he transferred to the Queensland Brain Institute in early 2016 where he is currently working under the supervision of Professor Marshall on the visual ecology of coral reef fishes. His research is, amongst others, funded by the Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation.

Doctor Cortesi's main interestes lie in the forces, from molecule to environment, which shape biodiversity in nature. Focusing mainly on the evolution of visual systems in fish, he is trying to understand how other animals perceive the world, how this contributes to the formation of colours and patterns and how this can lead to species diversity. To understand how vision is shaping single species and whole communities, he is using a variety of methods including Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) molecular approaches, transgenesis experiments, neurophysiological assessments of visual systems and behavioural experimentation.

Research Interests

  • Visual Ecology, Evolution, Genomics, Transcriptomics, Behaviour, Neurethology, Molecular Ecology, Fish

Research Impacts

Doctor Cortesi's work has made substantial contributions to our understanding of how animals other than humans see their world. Using both, the latest molecular and behavioural approaches his research continues to shed light on the various aspects of animal visual ecology including the use of colours for display, camouflage etc. and the evolution of visual and non-viusal photoreceptors.

His work has been published both as part of the peer reviewed Scientific Literature (9 papers; 1 in Current Biology and 1 in Proceedings of The National Academy of Sciences USA) as well as Popular Science Articles (3 articles totalling > 90,000 readers/views since Jan 2015). Doctor Cortesi's articles have furthemore experienced substantial media coverage (> 80 articles) including from: The Washington Post, BBC earth, BBC Wildlife, Spiegel Online, Howard Hughes Image of the Week, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Cosmos Magazine, Blick am Abend, ORF.at, The Conversation, Totally Wild - Australian Network Ten, Canadian Broadcasting Radio, Swedish National Radio.


  • PhD in Zoology, Universitat Basel


View all Publications


View all Grants


  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

  • Doctor Philosophy

View all Supervision

Available Projects

View all Available Projects


Journal Article

Other Outputs

  • Karen Cheney, Fanny de Busserolles, Martin Luehrmann, Abigail Shaughnessy, Cedric van den Berg, Naomi Green, Justin Marshall and Fabio Cortesi (2022). Data for: Seeing Picasso: an investigation into the visual system of the triggerfish, Rhinecanthus aculeatus. The University of Queensland. (Dataset) doi: 10.48610/bb0f237

  • Cortesi, Fabio, Dunn, Simon, Cheney, Karen, Powell, Samuel, Tettamanti, Valerio, Mitchell, Laurie, Luehrmann, Martin, van den Berg, Cedric, Green, Naomi and Mailer, Chelsea (2021). Gene-editing in anemonefish. The University of Queensland. (Dataset) doi: 10.48610/ddf0baa

  • Cortesi, Fabio, Dunn, Simon, Cheney, Karen, Powell, Samuel, Tettamanti, Valerio, Mitchell, Laurie, Luehrmann, Martin, van den Berg, Cedric, Green, Naomi and Mailer, Chelsea (2021). GBE anemonefish visual gene supporting data. The University of Queensland. (Dataset) doi: 10.14264/673b710

  • Powell, Samuel, Mitchell, Laurie J., Phelan, A. M. , Cortesi, Fabio, Marshall, Justin N. and Cheney, Karen L. (2020). A 5-channel LED display to investigate UV perception. The University of Queensland. (Dataset) doi: 10.14264/3e1e21e

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

Possible Research Projects

Note for students: The possible research projects listed on this page may not be comprehensive or up to date. Always feel free to contact the staff for more information, and also with your own research ideas.