Amanda Lane

Amanda holding snakes

Amanda is now a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Veterinary Science

Updated 21/02/2013

General Research Interests


I have an abiding interest in nature and I find that studying evolution satisfies my need for contemplation while allowing me to explore the intricacies of the natural environment. Primarily, I am interested in those processes surrounding speciation – what conditions need to be met for speciation to take place and what factors promote diversity both within and between species? With such broad research interests, I have found myself working on a diversity of projects within evolutionary biology.

Current Research


My PhD focuses on two species of sea snakes, Laticauda saintgironsi and Laticauda laticaudata, which can be found in abundance on the small, uninhabited islands of the Noumea lagoon, New Caledonia. These ‘sea kraits’ are amphibious, spending approximately equal amounts of time in the sea and on land. They hunt their prey of moray and conger eels on the coral reefs and return to land to digest, slough their skins, mate and lay eggs. These sea kraits are highly philopatric, meaning that they return to the same island repeatedly, even when translocated several kilometres away. This suggests that they may return to the island on which they hatched in order to mate and lay eggs. If this is the case, then populations on different islands will exhibit genetic divergence due to a lack of gene flow between island-populations.

Such a population structure can provide an excellent model for studies of evolutionary biology and has important implications for conservation management. In isolation from each other, populations are subject to the forces of local adaptation and genetic drift. Genetic drift and local adaptation are of great importance in the diversification of natural populations. Habitat fragmentation can increase the risk of localised extinctions from stochastic processes and from reduced organismal viability due to inbreeding. Small effective population sizes may be less able to respond to selective forces and their adaptive potential may therefore be reduced. On the other hand, fragmentation of populations may increase genetic diversity across an entire species, as populations adapt to local conditions or are effected by genetic drift, including founder effects.


The primary aim of my PhD is to investigate diversification in the Laticauda genus in New Caledonia by the use of mitochondrial and nuclear genetic data. Genetic markers present a popular means of delineating population structure as they can reveal patterns of dispersal that are not detected by direct observation. Genetic data will be complemented with ecological and behavioural studies, focused on reproduction and dispersal, in order to provide an inclusive picture of the evolutionary processes at work in the Laticauda species complex.

Past Research

I completed my honours degree at the University of Queensland in 2001, under the combined supervision and mentorship of Professors Ian Owens, Craig Moritz and Hugh Possingham.


My thesis was concerned with patterns of morphology, colouration and mate choice in the Wet Tropics rainbow skink, Carlia rubrigularis. Previous studies had suggested that this species was undergoing selection across the rainforest-open forest ecotone with this being reflected in differences in the morphology of animals from the two habitat types. Extensive sampling across paired sites in the Wet Tropics region showed that patterns of morphology in this species were largely due to site specific effects with no overall difference in the morphology of animals caught in the open eucalypt forest compared to those caught in the rainforest. Colouration was also not found to be significantly different between habitat types. Mate choice experiments showed an interesting pattern, whereby males from one site or habitat type preferred to court females from differing sites or habitats. This tendency towards outbreeding would seemingly preclude any speciation event between populations that are still in contact across an ecotonal boundary.

My genetics skills were honed while working as a Research Assistant for Professor Scott O’Neill at the University of Queensland. The lab in which I worked was primarily concerned with the genetic control of insect borne diseases, such as malaria, specifically using the bacterial endosymbiont, Wolbachia. A related area of research in which I was involved was research into a new strain of ‘spotted fever’ from Far North Queensland.


Field work is something in which I take immense enjoyment, and I have been lucky enough to contribute to several field studies outside of my own research. In 2004 I assisted Prof. Rick Shine in his ongoing investigation into the sexual strategies of garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) in Manitoba, Canada. This work primarily focused on mate location and mate choice under variable conditions.

In 2003 I spent time working with Dr Devi Stuart-Fox in South Africa, aiding her research into communication systems in dwarf chameleons.



BA (majors; psychology, religion)University of Queensland

BSc (majors; ecology, zoology)University of Queensland
BSc Honours (First class)University of Queensland
PhD candidateUniversity of Sydney



Lane, A.M., Moritz, C., Owens, I.P.F., and Possingham, H. Australian Evolution Society Conference: Current theories of speciation across an ecological gradient in the wet tropic skinkCarlia rubrigularis.
2006 Genetic Analysis for Population Studies Workshop
2007 University of California, Berkeley, Herpetological Society: Ecology and genetic diversity of sea kraits
2007 Genetics Society of Australia: Comparative phylogeography of Laticaudid sea snakes
2007 Phylogeography and Coalescence Workshop
2007 Society for the Study of Evolution Conference: Is sea snake population genetic structure dictated by habitat fragmentation?
2007 Australian Society of Herpetologists Conference: Genetic diversity in Laticaudid sea kraits
2008 National Taxonomy and Systematics Workshop

Baby chameleon


Some papers are available as pdf files. To read these you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader.
If you have any difficulties downloading files please contact .

Lane, A.M., Shaw, M.D., McGraw, E.A., and O’Neill, S.L. 2005. Evidence of a new spotted fever-like rickettsia and a potential new vector from northeastern Australia.Journal of Medical Entomology 42(5):918-921.
Shine, R., Webb, J.K.,Lane, A., and Mason, R.T. 2005. Mate location in garter snakes: effects of rival males, interrupted trails and non-pheremonal cues.Functional Ecology 19:1017-1024.
Lane, A.M.2006. Observations of courtship, copulation and gestation in the Wet Tropics endemic skinkCarliarubrigularis.Herpetological Review 37(1):46-47.
Shine, R., Webb, J.K.,Lane, A., and Mason, R.T. 2006. Flexible mate choice: a male snake's preference for larger females is modified by the sizes of females that he encounters. Animal Behaviour 71:203-209.
Unsworth, N.B., Stenos, J., Graves, S.R., Faa, A.G., Cox, E., Dyer, J.R., Boutlis, C.S.,Lane, A.M., Shaw, M., Robson, J., and Nissen, M.D. 2007. Flinders Island Spotted Fever rickettsioses caused by “marmionii” strain ofRickettsia honei, eastern Australia.Emerging Infectious Diseases 13:566-573.
6. Lane, A.M., Oldroyd, B.P., and Shine, R. 2007. Microsatellite loci for laticaudine sea kraits.Molecular EcologyResources in press.
7. Lenzen, M.,Lane, A.M., Widmer-Cooper, A., and Williams, M. 2008. Effects of land use on threatened species.Conservation Biology:in press.

Breathing snake

Grants and Awards

Australian Post-graduate Award
2004-2007 Postgraduate Research Support Scheme
2006 Ecological Society of Australia: Student award
2007 Environmental Futures Network: Early Career Research Support Program
2007 Australian Herpetological Society: Best student talk
2007 Biological Sciences: Postgraduate Excellence Award
2007 Royston George Booker Scholarship
2007-2008 University of Sydney: Top-up Scholarship