Jelle Atema

Professor of Biology
Adjunct Scientist, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

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PhD, University of Michigan, 1969

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Professor Atema’s research interests include sensory biology, chemical signals, receptor physiology, animal behavior, behavioral ecology, chemical ecology and biomimetic robotics. As part of the Boston University Marine Program, Professor Atema has sought to  understand how marine animals sense their environment, how they use this information to make decisions leading to food and mates while avoiding… Read more

Professor Atema’s research interests include sensory biology, chemical signals, receptor physiology, animal behavior, behavioral ecology, chemical ecology and biomimetic robotics. As part of the Boston University Marine Program, Professor Atema has sought to  understand how marine animals sense their environment, how they use this information to make decisions leading to food and mates while avoiding danger, and how these decisions play out in population dynamics and evolution. His work has contributed to lobster management and impacts reef conservation and marine protected areas. The lobster and shark research on sensing has led to navigation algorithms for autonomous underwater vehicles (“robo-lobster”).

    In the Media

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    • ‘Kidnapped’ Leopard Sharks sniff their way back to shore

      January 9, 2016

      America Herald Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences Leopard Sharks may navigate the ocean using their sharp sense of smell, according to a new study… View full article referencing expert Jelle Atema

    • Holes in a Bone: Flute or Fluke?

      August 30, 2015

      Discover Magazine Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences Many experts believe an approximately 45,000-year-old bear femur could be a flute — the oldest known musical instrument… Expert quote: “One cannot dismiss this intriguing bone as a flute. But we can never be sure it was used as such. We were not there.” View full […]

    • Fish Smell Like the Coral They Eat—Disguise Is New to Science

      December 9, 2014

      National Geographic Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences Now this is one fish that would beat you in a game of hide-and-seek. New research shows coral-dwelling filefish camouflage themselves by not only looking, but alsosmelling like their prey… Expert quote: “It’s a clever study design and a nice contribution to the literature on chemical camouflage. They showed […]

    • Baby corals and fish smell their way to the best home

      August 21, 2014

      Science Magazine Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences You know the story: Kids leave home to explore the world, eventually settling down in the greenest pastures they can find. But when these restless youngsters are baby fish and coral larvae, how do they choose the best place to make their new home?… Expert quote: […]

    • Scientists say sharks have much to teach us

      August 15, 2014

      Florida Today Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences They rarely get cancer. Their wounds heal much faster than humans’. Their unique skin makes for a low-drag glide through the water that engineers envy. Scientists say sharks have much to teach us: from how we treat illnesses to how to make better ships, undersea robots […]

    • Study Shows Sharks Combine All Their Senses to Hunt

      April 3, 2014

      Latin Post Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences A first-of-its-kind study of how sharks hunt has found the long-feared fish are truly complete predators, using all of their senses in an array of different combinations and ways… Expert quote: “This is landmark work. Back in 1985, world experts in underwater animal senses met at Mote, […]

    • Mote study sheds light on how sharks feed

      April 2, 2014

      Herald-Tribune Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences Citing a Hollywood movie as reference material can be like relying on Aunt Jemima Lite to lose calories. But every now and then, even big-screen hype can’t help but get it right… View full article

    • Scientists amazed by how sharks use senses to hunt

      April 2, 2014

      Futurity News Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences The most detailed ever play-by-play of how sharks hunt prey shows their senses work together from start to finish to get the job done. The research suggests that sharks with different lifestyles may favor different senses, and they can sometimes switch when their preferred senses are blocked. […]

    • Jaws, Reconsidered

      March 6, 2014

      The Scientist Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences Biologist Jelle Atema is putting the sensory capabilities of sharks to the test—and finding that the truth is more fascinating than fiction… Expert quote: “A shark can detect a single drop of blood in an Olympic-size swimming pool.” View full article

    • Not human but getting closer

      September 1, 2013

      Independent Online Jelle Atema, College of Arts & Sciences It may seem uncomfortably close to science fiction, but robots are moving ever nearer to having humanlike abilities to smell, feel and see their surroundings, allowing them to operate more independently and perform some of the dangerous, dirty and dull jobs people don’t want to do… […]

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