PhD opportunity: social intelligence and the evolution of brain size in lizards

We are looking for a PhD student to work on an Australian Research Council grant testing for social intelligence in Egernia skinks.

Here is some background: Uncovering the evolution of intelligence is one of science’s greatest challenges. Social intelligence theory suggests that sociality selects for increasingly sophisticated cognition, but this theory is heavily biased by studies of birds and mammals. To understand if cognition evolves independently using similar rules, we need studies of animals with different evolutionary histories. Egernia lizards evolved from a non-social ancestor and range in sociality from single individuals to family groups. We will integrate brain morphology, cognitive ability, and the lizards’ social system within a multi-species evolutionary framework to uncover the possible
early evolution and complex relationship between cognition and sociality. We are specifically looking for a student that will focus on multi-species (comparative) tests of social learning in a range of species. There will be some fieldwork, but much of this project will be conducted on campus at Macquarie.


PhD supervisor: A/Prof. Martin Whiting (Macquarie University) and Prof. Richard Byrne (St. Andrews)

If you are interested in joining my lab, please send me an expression of interest. This is very urgent because international scholarship deadlines are 31 August. Candidates would apply for an international scholarship at Macquarie University and should have a relevant Masters degree (e.g. Animal Behaviour, Behavioural Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, Ecology). Students that are competitive for these scholarships tend to meet at least two of the following criteria: 1.) publications in refereed journals (at least 1); 2.) rank in the top 10% of their class/cohort; and/or 3.) have academic prizes. A successful candidate would be expected to start in early 2015.

If you are interested in applying for this position please contact me via e-mail and send me the names of two academic referees and your CV. For more information about my research group (The Lizard Lab) see Please send all enquiries to

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