Color in motion: Generating 3-dimensional multispectral models to study dynamic visual signals in animals

Audrey E. Miller, Benedict G. Hogan, Mary Caswell Stoddard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Analyzing color and pattern in the context of motion is a central and ongoing challenge in the quantification of animal coloration. Many animal signals are spatially and temporally variable, but traditional methods fail to capture this dynamism because they use stationary animals in fixed positions. To investigate dynamic visual displays and to understand the evolutionary forces that shape dynamic colorful signals, we require cross-disciplinary methods that combine measurements of color, pattern, 3-dimensional (3D) shape, and motion. Here, we outline a workflow for producing digital 3D models with objective color information from museum specimens with diffuse colors. The workflow combines multispectral imaging with photogrammetry to produce digital 3D models that contain calibrated ultraviolet (UV) and human-visible (VIS) color information and incorporate pattern and 3D shape. These “3D multispectral models” can subsequently be animated to incorporate both signaler and receiver movement and analyzed in silico using a variety of receiver-specific visual models. This approach—which can be flexibly integrated with other tools and methods—represents a key first step toward analyzing visual signals in motion. We describe several timely applications of this workflow and next steps for multispectral 3D photogrammetry and animation techniques.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number983369
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and Evolution
StatePublished - Sep 30 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


  • 3D modeling
  • animation
  • color
  • dynamic
  • motion
  • multispectral imaging
  • photogrammetry
  • visual signals


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