Comparing attractive and competitive males

Male-male competition vs female choice: same-same or something different?


Typically, males compete with one another for access to females, and females choose their preferred suitor among competing males. This precopulatory sexual selection can have profoundly positive effects on population fitness, which could be critical for the health and management of wild and domestic species.

Previously, we have exposed these benefits by reversing sexual selection – by selecting for ‘dud’ males. We have shown, at both the phenotypic and genomic levels, that precopulatory sexual selection as a whole removes mutations.

This project aims to use evolution experiments to disentangle the conflated aspects of male-male competition and female choice, and determine what effects they have on the genome. You will have the opportunity to develop an array of critical skills, including: learning lab protocols and evolution approaches for the most widely-used model system (Drosophila), and developing quantitative and genomic data analytical skills.


Project goals:

  • Determine the physical and genetic traits that make males competitive and/or attractive
  • Determine the genetic consequences of enhancing and reversing sexual selection on males

As par of this project the successful PhD applicant will:

  • Perform lab evolution experiments with Drosophila
  • Sequence the genomes of fly populations
  • Learn critical skills in quantitative genetic and genomic data analysis.

Research team leader: Robert Dugand

I am an evolutionary biologists interested in understanding how genetic variation is maintained in face of persistent selection, particularly sexual selection. I primarily work with model organisms in the lab.

Funding and Collaborations

Funding - DP210100868 ($378,087.00)


How to Apply

Check criteria
  • To be accepted into the Doctor of Philosophy, an applicant must demonstrate they have sufficient background experience in independent supervised research to successfully complete, and provide evidence of English language proficiency
  • Requirements specific to this project -
    • Successful applicants would normally have a first class Honours degree in a relevant discipline and often a publication. Applications are invited from Australian or NZ nationals resident within AU/NZ, and international applicants currently resident in AU/NZ.
    • Selection is a competitive process and applications will be pre-screened before being formally put into the competitive process at the university level.
    • Please send a CV and cover letter to Robert Dugand ([email protected]).
Submit enquiry to research team leader 
  • Contact the research team leader by submitting an Expression of Interest form via the button below
  • After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, contact [email protected] to proceed with your application


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.