Currently my research is in the field of sexual selection, the evolutionary force that acts through competition for mates and mate choice. Below I outline the questions in this field that I am examining in my research, based at the UWA Centre for Evolutionary Biology with Jon Evans and Jason Kennington. I provide a full list of current and past collaborators on this page. For more information about other fascinating research going on in Jon's lab group, check out The EVOLab webpage!
The evolution of gamete interactions
Sexual selection does not end at mating; in many animals, sperm (and sometimes eggs) from many individuals come into contact before fertilisation. For example, in external fertilisers often many individuals release gametes together into the environment, and in internal fertilisers females will often mate with several males. I am examining these processes using broadcast spawning mussels (Mytilus galloprovincialis), where many males and females release gametes into the ocean together. This leads to many interesting interactions among and between sperm and eggs; for example, eggs release chemicals attractants that may affect different males' sperm in different ways. Examining these interactions in broadcast spawners, which was the first reproductive tactic in animal evolution, could reveal important insights into the way sperm and eggs of many species interact, even humans.
Lymbery et al. 2016
Lymbery et al. 2017
Selection on sperm
A very common case of gamete interactions is competition among sperm from many males to fertilise a female's eggs. I am looking at the way these competitions affect selection on the traits of sperm (and the ejaculate), in particular how these traits interact to affect fertilisation success. I am also interested in the genetic mechanisms that underlie gamete interactions; for example, we now know that sperm carry complex populations of RNA molecules, which may play a role in sperm performance or may get passed into the egg and affect the egg or embryo in complex ways.
Hadlow et al. 2020
Lymbery et al. 2016
Genetic variation and adaptation to environmental challenges
In my Honours thesis, I examined the potential for animals to adapt through evolution to changes in the environment caused by humans. In particular, I used a quantitative genetic design to determine the amount of genetic variation (which is necessary for genetic evolution) present in temperature tolerance of larval sea urchins. These questions are crucial for our understanding whether species will be able to respond to rapid, human induced climate change.
Lymbery and Evans 2013
- Transcriptomics and next-generation sequencing
- Statistical techniques and inference in biology
- Non-genetic paternal effects on offspring
- Prof Jonathan Evans (University of Western Australia)
- Dr Jason Kennington (University of Western Australia)
- Jessica Hadlow (University of Western Australia)
- Jake Penny (Deakin University)
- Assoc/Prof Xavier Conlan (Deakin University)
- Assoc/Prof Craig Sherman (Deakin University)
- Dr Clelia Gasparini (University of Padova)
- Dr Christopher Cornwall (Victoria University of Wellington)
- Assoc/Prof Alan Lymbery (Murdoch University)
- Dr Michael Klunzinger (Murdoch University)
- Dr David Morgan (Murdoch University)
- Dr Stephen Beatty (Murdoch University)