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What makes a successful male?

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Prof L Kruuk, Dr C Walling  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Male reproductive success varies greatly between individuals, generating sexual selection that has driven the evolution of some of the most dramatic traits in the animal kingdom. However, whilst sexual selection on traits such as weaponry can explain some of the variation in male reproductive success, much typically remains unexplained. As a result, it is unclear how important other traits – such as behavior, condition, or phenology – are in determining a male’s access to females and mating success, and ultimately his reproductive success in terms of surviving offspring. Further, many aspects of sexual selection theory remain poorly explored with sufficiently powerful empirical data. How do costs of reproduction manifest themselves, and what is the role of trade-offs (e.g. between survival vs reproduction, or early vs late-life performance) in shaping male life histories? And whilst the distribution of male breeding success in a given year will depend on the line-up of competitors and of potential mates (and their fertility) each year, it is not clear how these changes should affect selection on particular traits, or whether some mating strategies should be more favourable under certain conditions than others.

This project will use data from a 50-year study of a wild population of red deer on the Isle of Rum, Scotland, combining detailed records of individuals across their lifespans, phenotypic traits, mating season behaviour and genomic data with multivariate quantitative genetic and selection analyses. The project will address the following questions:

-   What proportion of total variation in male reproductive success is explained by weaponry vs other traits?

-   How do phenotypic traits predict mating success (access to females), and how does mating success predict reproductive success (number of offspring)?

-   How do costs of reproduction and life-history trade-offs manifest themselves for males?

-   How does sexual selection and genetic variance for sexually-selected traits change with environmental conditions and with age?

-   Even in systems without parental care, can male phenotype (or genotype) affect offspring fitness in ways over and above direct effects of inherited genes?

The student should be happy with statistical analyses of complex data sets (all training will be provided), fieldwork in a remote place, and working in a team.

Please contact [Email Address Removed] for further details. If you’d like to apply, send me a CV, a covering letter explaining why you are interested in the PhD and names of two academic referees, by 14 February 2022.

@LoeskeKruuk @RumDeerResearch

The PhD will be co-supervised with Dr Craig Walling: 

It will also involve collaboration with: Dr Jono Henshaw, University of Frieburg 

Prof. Michael Jennions, Australian National University

The School of Biological Sciences is committed to Equality & Diversity:

 How to Apply:

The “Institution Website” button will take you to our Online Application checklist. Complete each step and download the checklist which will provide a list of funding options and guide you through the application process. Application deadline is 14 February 2022.

Funding Notes

This is a 3.5 year fully funded PhD project at UKRI stipend level. This opportunity is open to UK and International students and provides funding to cover stipend and UK level tuition fees. The fee difference will be covered by the University of Edinburgh for successful international applicants.


Bonnet, T., M. B. Morrissey, T. Clutton-Brock, J. M. Pemberton and L. E. B. Kruuk (2019). "The role of selection and evolution in changing parturition date in a red deer population." PLOS Biology 9: 9-15.
Henshaw, J. M., M. D. Jennions, and L. E. B. Kruuk. 2018. How to quantify (the response to) sexual selection on traits. Evolution 72:1904-1917.

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