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 

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  • 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
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