Fabio Cortesi

Universität Basel,
Zoologisches Institut
Vesalgasse 1
CH-4051 Basel


+41 (0)61 207 03 10

+41 (0)61 207 03 01


Fabio Cortesi

PhD student under the supervision of Prof. Walter Salzburger, Dr. Karen Cheney and Prof. Justin Marshall (The University of Queensland, Australia). Works on the mimicry system of the coral reef fish Pseudochromis fuscus.

Current research

Mimicry describes the biological phenomenon of a species to closely resemble another species in order to gain fitness. Although resemblance can be in a variety of traits such as in morphology or behaviour it generally refers to the imitation of model species pigmentation and patterning, making mimicry systems ideal to study convergent evolution among different species. Mimicry has traditionally been explored in invertebrate species (e.g. butterflies), where classical crossing experiments and lately modern genetic techniques have been used to link specific phenotypic traits to underlying genetics and genomics. However, little is known about how genotype is linked to phenotype in vertebrate mimicry species. My PhD is focusing on exactly that, namely investigating the genetics and genomics underlying phenotypic adaptation in Pseudochromis fuscus, a coral reef fish from the Indo Pacific. By using fuscus as model system, I am trying to answer questions such as: • What are the ecological triggers for adaptive colouration in the species? • Where exactly are the benefits of such a mimicry complex allocated? • What is, on a molecular and ecological level, driving the evolution of vertebrate mimicry systems?

And else?

I love to travel the world, experience new cultures and learn about other people’s ways of life. I m an avid surfer and scuba diver and as I grew up in the middle of it, can’t be without the occasional snowboarding trip…

Curriculum vitae

Born in 1985 in Samedan, Switzerland
2010-present PhD student at the Zoological Institute, University of Basel, Switzerland in collaboration with the School of Biological Sciences and the Queensland Brain Institute, The University of Queensland, Australia.
Under supervision of Prof. Walter Salzburger, Dr. Karen Cheney, and Prof. Justin Marshall.
2009 Honours thesis at the School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Australia
Under supervision of Dr. Karen Cheney, Prof. Justin Marshall, and Dr. Lexa Grutter
2005-2008 BSc in Biology with Major in Plant and Animal Biology, University of Basel, Switzerland




  • Cortesi F & Cheney K. (2010). Conspicuousness is correlated with toxicity in marine opisthobranchs. Journal of Evolutionary Biologyy, Vol. 23, No. 7: 1509-1518.

Media coverage


  • Unsere Abhängikeit vom Meer (Juli 2010), Engadiner Wochenzeitung (Switzerland), by Barbara Schellenberg.

Research grants


  • Endeavour reserach fellowship, 6 months research abroad towards PhD in home country. 23 500 AUD.


  • Ecological and Molecular Bases for Mimicry in Vertebrates: The Case of Colour Dimorphism in the Marine Fish Pseudochromis fuscus, one year PhD scholarship from the Janggen-Pöhn-Stiftung. 38’000 CHF.


  • Ecological and Molecular Bases for Mimicry in Vertebrates: The Case of Colour Dimorphism in the Marine Fish Pseudochromis fuscus, research scholarship from the Basler Stiftung für Biologische Forschung. 10’000 CHF.