Biological Sciences

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John E. Layne

Title: Assistant Professor
Office: 800O Rieveschl Hall
Tel: 513-556-9718

SBBE, Behavioral neurobiology and sensory ecology; vision in natural habitats; control systems in visual guidance; animal orientation and navigation


  • B.A., Macalester College, St. Paul, MN, 1991 (Biology).
  • Ph.D., Duke University, Durham, NC, 1998 (Zoology).

Research Information

Research Interests

I am a Neuroethologist.  My research aims to discover how sense organs, and the neural processing of sensory information, mediate and constrain animal behavior under natural conditions.  Sense organs both make possible a given behavior, and also limit its range of capacity.  By spanning neural, sensory and behavioral fields I operate at an intersection of several biological, psychological and engineering disciplines.  This allows collaborations that extend the competencies of the investigators involved – an exceedingly and increasingly important factor in the progress, and funding, of complex biological research – and also extend bridges of understanding between all-too-frequently insular disciplines.  My research program consists of two major projects:
1.  Mechanisms of navigation by path integration.  I study the navigational process of path integration in fiddler crabs, which are the ideal subject for three reasons.  First, unlike other animals, they regularly walk in virtually any direction relative to their body axis.  This means that in sensation, measurement and computation they must deal with three, rather than two, degrees of terrestrial locomotory freedom (direction, distance and turns, rather than merely the latter two).  Second, they are the only animals known to primarily, and possibly exclusively, use idiothetic path integration for homing.  This means that they are a model system for investigating a real biological manifestation of the worst possible mode of navigation.  Third, they have highly developed stabilizing eye movements, which operate much like those in humans.  This means that the role of eye movements in the sense of navigational space is best studied in, and generalized from, these animals.
2. Optical and physiological adaptations of retina to environment.  I relate animals’ visual morphology and physiology to their behavior and the structure of their natural habitats.  The goal is to understand the way natural stimuli are perceived, and to understand the evolutionary adaptation of sense organs with respect to the behaviors they mediate.  This research follows the trail of information vertically through different levels of biological organization: from the spatial structure of light in an animal’s habitat, to the gross anatomy of its eyes, to the sensory cells’ physiological responses to light, to the higher-order cells’ filtering and computational properties.  What binds all of these things together is the behavior of the animal itself.
See more about Animal Behavior at UC.

Research Support

  • (PI), Layne, John, Path Integration in Fiddler Crabs and its Co-Evolution with Social Behavior, National Science Foundation. (IOS-0749768), $379,998.00. 03-01-2008 to 02-28-2013. Status: Active.
  • (Collaborator), Layne, John; Rollmann, Stephanie, Sensory Physiology and Genomics of Olfaction in Drosophila mojavensis, National Science Foundation. (IOS-1456932), $160,001.00. 06-01-2015 to 05-31-2019. Status: Awarded.
  • (Collaborator), Layne, John; Maynard, Kathie; Peteet, Bridgette; Rollmann, Stephanie; Vanderelst, Dieter, Strategies: Trans-disciplinary Education in Biology and Engineering Technology, National Science Foundation. (DRL-1759150), $1,198,120.00. 08-01-2018 to 07-31-2021. Status: Active.


Peer Reviewed Publications

  • Maksimovic, S., Layne, J. E. and Buschbeck, E. K.  (2011). The spectral sensitivity of the principal eyes of the Sunburst Diving Beetle Thermonectus marmoratus (Coleoptera: Dytiscidae) larva.  Journal of Experimental Biology214: 3524-3531
  • Stowasser, A., Rapaport, A.†, Layne, J. E., Morgan, R. C. and Buschbeck, E. K. (2010) Biological bifocal lenses with image separation.  Current Biology 20: 1482-1486.
  • Rajkumar, P., Rollmann, S. M., Cook, T. A. and Layne, J.E. (2010).  Molecular evidence for color discrimination in the Atlantic sand fiddler crab, Uca pugilatorJournal of Experimental Biology 213: 4240-4248.
  • Walls, M.L & Layne, J.E. (2009). Direct Evidence for Distance Measurement via Flexible Stride Integration in the Fiddler Crab. Current Biology, 19, 1-5.
  • Walls, M. L. & Layne, J. E. (2009). Fiddler crabs accurately measure two-dimensional distance over three-dimensional terrain. Journal of Experimental Biology, 212, 32363240.
  • Maksimovic, S., Layne, J.E. & Buschbeck, E.K. (2007). Behavioral evidence for within-eyelet resolution in twisted-winged insects (Strepsiptera). Journal of Experimental Biology, 210, 2819-2828.
  • Layne, J.E., Chen, P.W. & Gilbert, C. (2006). The role of target elevation in prey selection by tiger beetles (Carabidae : Cicindela spp.). Journal of Experimental Biology, 209(21), 4295, 4303.
  • Layne, J.E., Barnes, W.J.P. & Duncan, L.M.J. (2003). Mechanisms of homing in the fiddler crab Uca rapax 1. Spatial and temporal characteristics of a system of small-scale navigation. Journal of Experimental Biology, 206(24), 4413, 4423.
  • Layne, J.E., Barnes, W.J.P. & Duncan, L.M.J. (2003). Mechanisms of homing in the fiddler crab Uca rapax 2. Information sources and frame of reference for a path integration system. Journal of Experimental Biology, 206(24), 4425, 4442.
  • Zeil, J. & J. E. Layne (2002). Path integration in fiddler crabs and its relation to habitat. In K. Wiese (Eds.), Crustacean Experimental Systems in Neurobiology (pp. 227-246). Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer Verlag.
  • Layne, J.E. (1998). Retinal location is the key to identifying predators in fiddler crabs (Uca pugilator). Journal of Experimental Biology, 201, 2253-2261.
  • Layne, J. E., M. Wicklein, F. A. Dodge, & R. Barlow (1997). Prediction of maximum allowable retinal slip speed in Uca pugilator. Biological Bulletin, 193, 202-203.
  • Layne, J.E., Land, M.F. & J. Zeil, J. (1997). Fiddler crabs use the visual horizon to distinguish predators from conspecifics: A review of the evidence. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the UK, 77, 43-54.
  • Land, M.F. & Layne, J.E. (1995). The Visual Control of Behavior in Fiddler Crabs. I. Resolution, Thresholds and the Role of the Horizon. Jounral of Comparative Physiology A, 177, 81-90.
  • Land, M.F. & Layne, J.E. (1995). The Visual Control of Behavior in Fiddler Crabs. II. Tracking Control Systems in Courtship and Defence. Jounral of Comparative Physiology A, 177, 91-103.

Presentations & Lectures

Invited Presentations

  • John E Layne (2012). Oculomotor control of the subjective body axis in an arthropod and its role in compass-less navigation. Center for Cognition, Action & Perception, University of Cincinnati Department of Psychology.
  • John E Layne (2010). Path Simplicity Changes Inefficient Navigation to Efficient. 9th International Congress of Neuroethology, Salamanca, Spain.
  • John E Layne (2010). Why can fiddler crabs use the method of navigation most likely to fail? Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama.

Paper Presentations

  • Hong, L.S. and Layne, J.E. (2011). Spatial navigation in fiddler crabs: Gaining absolute direction reference for goals away from home. , Bloomington, IN.
  • Rajkumar, P., Rollmann, S. M., Cook, T. A. and Layne, J. E. (2010). Molecular evidence for color discrimination in the Atlantic sand fiddler crab, Uca pugilator, Spain.
  • Rajkumar, P., Rollmann, S.M., Buschbeck, E. and Layne, J.E. (2008). Sequence & expression of opsins in fiddler crab, Uca pugilator, Bäckaskog Castle, Sweden.

Honors & Awards

  • Grass Fellowship in Neurobiology, Grass Foundation, 1997.

Experience & Service

Post Graduate training and Education

  • 2003 to 2005, Research Associate, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
  • 2000 to 2002, Post-doctoral fellow, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY.
  • 1998 to 2000, NSF International Research Fellow, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, U.K..
  • 1996, Neural Systems and Behavior, Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory.


  • Committee Member, University Research Council 2011

Courses Taught

    Level: Both

    Level: Undergraduate

    Level: Both