Evolution of vertebrate pregnancy


In this project we will use genetic, morphological, and physiological techniques to characterise the fundamental biology of pregnancy in tractable model mammals, fish, and sharks and to trace the evolution of live birth.


Professor Michael B. Thompson, Dr Camilla Whittington

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 will use a live-bearing shark as a model for placental function and evolution, characterising the genes that underlie live birth in sharks and examining placental morphology. 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

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. We encourage students to get involved in our collaborative research projects with scientists from across Australia, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA. We also encourage active student involvement in lab and departmental activities, and attendance at national and international conferences. Please visit our web site http://www.camillawhittington.com/#!evolutionary-integrative-zoology/josta for our current projects and research interests.
 Dr Van Dyke: http://www.jamesuvandyke.com/

Want to find out more?

Contact us to find out what’s involved in applying for a PhD. Domestic students and International students

Contact Research Expert to find out more about participating in this opportunity.

Browse for other opportunities within the School of Life and Environmental Sciences .


Shark, viviparity, Pregnancy, evolutionary biology

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2145

Other opportunities with Dr Camilla Whittington