Daniel Zurek, PostDoc

I am interested in the ways evolution, ecology, and behavioral demands have shaped vision in invertebrates. This involves comparative investigations of sensory physiology, visual signals, and locomotory behavior, taking into account all wwws from the natural sensory “Umwelt” to optical and neuronal data acquisition and processing. My research also explores visual guidance laws controlling animal behavior, and investigates active vision strategies such as gaze movements. I have employed a wide array of techniques, from psychophysics over spectrophotometry and electrophysiology, to ‘unrestrained’ behavioral experiments coupled with high speed video analysis. More about my work below and on my personal website at danielzurek.com.

2001-2007 Diplom in Biologie, Universität Kassel & Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, Germany. Thesis Advisor: Stanislav N. Gorb
2008-2012 Ph.D. in Brain, Behaviour and Evolution, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia. Advisors: Ximena Nelson, Christopher S. Evans, David O’Carroll
2012-2014 PostDoc with Cole Gilbert, Dept. of Entomology, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA.
2014-now PostDoc with Nate Morehouse, Dept. of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Current Research

In the Morehouse lab, I am researching eyes and visually guided behavior of jumping spiders. The visual systems of these small predators are modular, with different eye pairs specialized for specific tasks. I am especially interested in the design challenges inherent to a high performance imaging system at miniature scale. Furthermore, we have recently discovered a new mechanism of color vision in a species-rich genus that is famous for its elaborate coloration and courtship dances. I am involved in a series of projects aimed at understanding the interaction between visual signal construction and receiver visual field characteristics. Related work will investigate a potential role of improved color vision in speciation. More details about these projects can be found here:

Prior Research

Vision on the run. My work in Cole Gilbert’s lab at Cornell University examined the visual system of tiger beetles – extremely fast runners with excellent vision, which are highly susceptible to motion blur due to their high speed. This makes them an ideal system to study questions related to spatiotemporal resolution in real-life situations, as well as visuomotory guidance laws.

So far, this work led to the discoveries of a novel method of collision prediction in systems where both predator and prey are moving (Biol Lett, 2014), and of how visual motion blur can be compensated for by antennal mechanosensation (Proc Roy Soc B, 2014).

Motion detection and tracking in jumping spiders. My PhD research at Macquarie University focused on motion detection and tracking. I analyzed the motion tracking behavior and performance of these animals (J Comp Physiol A, 2012; J Exp Biol 2010) as well as the neurophysiology of their photoreceptors. I also revealed unexpected ‘hyperacute’ motion vision in their secondary eyes (Vision Res, 2012).

During my PostDoc at Cornell I investigated gaze movements of the principal eyes in unrestrained jumping spiders, and their function target tracking, object scanning, and route planning tasks (MS in prep.).

Publications

TE White, RL Dalrymple, DWA Noble, JC O’Hanlon, DB Zurek, KDL Umbers (2015) (Authors contributed equally). Reproducible research in the study of biological colorationAnimal Behavior (In Press)
DB Zurek, TW Cronin, LA Taylor, K Byrne, MLG Sullivan, and NI Morehouse (2015). Spectral filtering enables trichromatic vision in colorful jumping spiders. Current Biology (In Press)
DB Zurek, SN Gorb, and D Voigt (2014). Locomotion and attachment of leaf beetle larvae (Gastrophysa viridula). Royal Society Interface Focus 5(1)
DB Zurek, MQ Perkins, and C Gilbert (2014). Dynamic visual cues induce jaw opening and closing by tiger beetles during pursuit of prey. Biology Letters, 20140760 *Cover
DB Zurek and C Gilbert (2014). Static antennae act as locomotory guides that compensate for visual motion blur in a diurnal, keen-eyed predator. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281 (1779)
DB Zurek and XJ Nelson (2012). Hyperacute motion detection by the lateral eyes of jumping spiders. Vision Research, 66, 26-30
C Gilbert and DB Zurek (2012). Visual Neuroscience: Fruit flies use directional motion disparities to segregate moving objects from the optic flow field. Current Biology, 22(14), 565-567
DB Zurek and XJ Nelson (2012). Saccadic tracking of targets mediated by the anterior-lateral eyes of jumping spiders. Journal of Comparative Physiology A, 198(6) 411-417
DB Zurek, AJ Taylor, CS Evans and XJ Nelson (2010). The role of the anterior lateral eyes in the vision-based behaviour of jumping spiders. Journal of Experimental Biology 213(14) 2372-2378 *Cover