Institution: University of Canberra
Location: Canberra, Australia
Closing date: not provided
A PhD project is available at the University of Canberra studying the evolutionary origins of sexually-parasitic ‘unisexual’ lineages in carp gudgeons (Eleotridae: genus Hypseleotris).
Vertebrate groups that harbour both sexual and unisexual taxa have been highly prized as testing grounds for a range of big-picture questions in evolutionary biology. However, such groups are extremely rare, and none thus far has provided the optimal mix of biological features required to fully explore these questions. Our project has three general aims for newly-discovered instances of unisexuality in carp gudgeons:
- Establish this group as a powerful vertebrate model for the study of unisexuality and of the evolutionary significance of sex;
- Test six ‘standard’ hypotheses about the evolutionary attributes of vertebrate unisexuals'
- Provide the essential genomic and morphological criteria required to uniquely identify each sexual and sexually-parasitic taxon in this hugely-important but neglected complex of freshwater fishes, prominent residents of Australia’s most-intensively studied waterways.
These aims will be achieved using a combination of multiple genetic technologies (allozymes, mtDNA, next-generation DNA), laboratory breeding trials, basic ecological studies, and morphological assessments.
Unisexual carp gudgeons represent the first example of sexual parasitism in any Australian vertebrate, the first new instance in a vertebrate world-wide in over 20 years, and only the fourth vertebrate example of an all-male hybridogen. As part of our broader project, we expect the successful elucidation of the number, nature, and evolutionary origins of unisexual lineages in carp gudgeons, underpinned by a solid taxonomic framework, laboratory husbandry protocols, and breeding experimentation, to trigger a considerable volume of theoretical and applied research, both in Australia and world-wide.
Carp gudgeons are among the most abundant native fishes in south eastern Australia, where they comprise ~6 sexual species (three of which are undescribed). Four of these sexual species are known to mate with (and thus help perpetuate) sexually parasitic lineages, while another “species” (Lakes carp gudgeon) is currently only known from its genetic signature in some unisexual lineages (i.e. the sexual ancestor appears to be extinct). Ecologically these fishes offer great opportunities for research, since multiple sexual and unisexual forms often occur at the same site, both in the Murray-Darling Basin and the coastal drainages along central eastern Australia. Research into the ecology and evolution of these fishes remains limited, so all new investigations will be groud-breaking.
The options for the specific Ph.D. research questions are wide open, but projects examining evolutionary questions around their reproduction in aquariums, aspects of their ecology in the wild or examining morphological variation are preferred. The Ph.D. project is part of a recently successfully granted ARC Discovery project; the detailed project description is available on request. Students would be supervised by Peter Unmack (UC), Mark Adams (SA Museum) and others, depending on the project.
- This project and the PhD candidature will be administered through the University of Canberra.
- You will need to have completed a B.Sc. and some subsequent form of research-focussed degree (an M.Sc., or in the Australian/New Zealand system, an Honors year) to be considered.
- If you are an Australian or New Zealand citizen or Australian permanent resident, you would be eligible to be considered for an APA Stipend Scholarship, and would be eligible for exemption from tuition fee payments under the Australian Government’s Research Training Scheme (RTS). An APA stipend scholarship is currently valued at $28,549pa. A small number of top-up Scholarships valued at $5,000 pa are also available.
- If you are not an Australian or New Zealand citizen or Australian permanent resident, unless you are the recipient of a competitive merit based scholarship, you will be liable for upfront fees, at a rate of approximately $AUS 20k p.a.
If you are interested in applying, please email Peter Unmack (peter [dot] unmack [at] canberra [dot] edu [dot] au) and provide the following information:
- An expression of interest, and some general background of your past experience, qualifications, and expertise relevant to this project
- A copy of your CV
- Preferably, copies of all your academic transcripts (B.Sc. and subsequent degrees) to demonstrate which specific subjects you have undertaken.