The role of sexual selection in the evolution of Australia's most diverse mygalomorph spider genus (Aname)

Investigating sexual selection in Aname


This Ph.D. project offers a candidate the opportunity to work with a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from UWA, the Western Australian Museum and the Queensland Museum to investigate sexual selection in Aname – a remarkably diverse genus of mygalomorph spiders (funnel-webs, tarantulas and their relatives) that has radiated across the Australian continent.

Through the application of comparative phylogenetic methods, the candidate will quantify and compare the evolutionary rate of genital and somatic (non-genital) characters in male and female spiders, to test hypotheses about the evolution of these structures, and place the findings in the context of sexual selection and its potential influence on the speciation process.

The candidate will also learn taxonomic skills from museum arachnologists, and discover and describe new species of Aname. Research has revealed that mygalomorph spiders are 'extinction prone' due to their naturally small distributions and sedentary lifestyle, and declines in mygalomorph populations have already been documented in Australia. Description of these new species will therefore be a valuable contribution to the conservation of a vulnerable invertebrate group.

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Research team leader: Professor Leigh Simmons

My research uses both vertebrates and invertebrates to test the predictions and assumptions of theoretical models of sexual selection and life history evolution. My current projects focus on: i) sperm competition and paternal effects mediated via seminal fluid; ii) the evolution of animal genitalia; iii) natural and sexual selection acting on insect cuticular lipids; and iv) the dung burial services provided by dung beetles. I am also engaged in research on sexual selection on humans.

Other supervisors will include Prof Mark Harvey (WA Museum) and Dr Michael Rix (Queensland Museum).


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
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.

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