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Evolution of vertebrate pregnancy


Our lab, within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, focuses on understanding the evolution of viviparity, placentae, and reproductive complexity, using a variety of model systems. We have broad expertise across physiology, morphology, genomics, and evolutionary biology, and work closely with researchers in other departments, including the School of Medical Science.
In this project we will use genetic, morphological, and physiological techniques to characterise the fundamental biology of pregnancy in tractable model mammals, lizards, and sharks and to trace the evolution of live birth.


Dr Camilla Whittington, Emeritus Professor Michael B. Thompson.

Research location

School of Life and Environmental Sciences

Program type



Viviparity (live birth) is an important biological innovation that has evolved convergently from oviparity (egg-laying) many times in mammals, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and invertebrates. In some cases, complex placentae that transport large quantities of nutrients to the fetus have also evolved convergently to support pregnancy in viviparous lineages. We are using live-bearing Australian sharks and lizards as models for placental function and evolution.
The project will encompass genomics, morphology (including state of the art microscopy), and/or physiology, depending on the interests of the student. Our data will provide new knowledge of the fundamental reproductive biology of sharks and the evolution of vertebrate reproductive strategies.

Additional information

The ideal candidates will have a strong academic record and a graduate degree in Biology, Zoology, Physiology, Genetics/Genomics, or a related field.

Please visit our web site for our current projects and research interests.

In addition to the academic requirements set out in the Science Postgraduate Handbook, you may be required to satisfy a number of inherent requirements to complete this degree. Example of inherent requirement may include:

  • Confidential disclosure and registration of a disability that may hinder your performance in your degree;
  • Confidential disclosure of a pre-existing or current medical condition that may hinder your performance in your degree (e.g. heart disease, pace-maker, significant immune suppression, diabetes, vertigo, etc.);
  • Ability to perform independently and/or with minimal supervision;
  • Ability to undertake certain physical tasks (e.g. heavy lifting);
  • Ability to undertake observatory, sensory and communication tasks;
  • Ability to spend time at remote sites (e.g. One Tree Island, Narrabri and Camden);
  • Ability to work in confined spaces or at heights;
  • Ability to operate heavy machinery (e.g. farming equipment);
  • Hold or acquire an Australian driver’s licence; Hold a current scuba diving license;
  • Hold a current Working with Children Check;
  • Meet initial and ongoing immunisation requirements (e.g. Q-Fever, Vaccinia virus, Hepatitis, etc.)

You must consult with your nominated supervisor regarding any identified inherent requirements before completing your application.

Want to find out more?

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is 2145

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