The evolution of mating systems and parental care: phylogenetic analyses

   Department of Zoology

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  Prof Tamas Szekely  Applications accepted all year round  Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Mating systems and parental care are some of the most variable social traits. The project uses vertebrate diversity to understand the evolution of breeding system variation in fishes, amphibians, reptiles birds and mammals.

We are looking for a quantitative-minded student interested to understand social evolution. The student will join an international research group of evolutionary biologists, ecologists and behavioural biologists to understand reproductive strategies. The student will be trained in quantitative biology including data analyses, phylogenetic analyses of ecology, behaviour and life history. The project offers an unparalleled opportunity for a bright student intended to establish a career in evolutionary biology by using extensive databases. Follow-up projects will focus on using the databases for biodiversity conservation and climate change. Applicants need to have a master degree in ecology, evolutionary biology, biometry or related field.

The studentship will be based at the University of Debrecen and will involve visits to leading research institutions in the UK, Holland and Germany. Debrecen is the second largest city in Hungary with a large multi-national student community. Debrecen is the cultural centre of eastern Hungary with prioximity to UNESCO protected area, the Hortobágy National Park.

In short, we seek a bright and motivated students from any country with interest in evolution, behaviour and conservation. Please send us your CV and letter of motivation to [Email Address Removed]

For further details, please see the supervisors' websites:

Prof Tamas Szekely

Dr Balazs Vagi

Funding Notes

Interested students should contact us about funding opportunities. Stipendium Hungaricum offers funding for students from eligible countries, please check Funding available for both Master and PhD applicants. If you are not eligible for Stipendium Hungaricum please note it in your CV.


Our group regularly publish papers in top scientific journals. Selected publications include:
Vági B, Végvári Z, Liker A, Freckleton RP, Székely T (2019) Terrestriality and the evolution of parental care in frogs. Proc R Soc Lond B 286:20182737.
Vági B, Végvári Z, Liker A, Freckleton RP, Székely T (2020) Climate and mating systems as drivers of global diversity of parental care in frogs. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 29:1373–1386.
Katona G, Vági B, Végvári Z, Liker A, Freckleton RP, Bókony V, Székely T (2021) Are evolutionary transitions in sexual size dimorphism related to sex determination in reptiles? J Evol Biol 34: 594-603
Mokos J, Scheuring I, Liker A, Freckleton RP, Székely T (2021) Degree of anisogamy is unrelated to the intensity of sexual selection. Sci Reports, 11:19424.
Pipoly I, Bókony V, Kirkpatrick M, Donald PF, Székely T, Liker A (2015) The genetic sex-determination system predicts adult sex ratios in tetrapods Nature 527:91 – 94.
Székely T, Remeš V, Freckleton RP, Liker A (2013) Why care? Inferring the evolution of complex social behaviour. J Evol Biol 26:1381–1391.
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