Dr David Hosken in the lab

Dr David Hosken in the lab

Professor David Hosken
Professor of Evolutionary Biology


Research interests

I am broadly interested in evolutionary biology, although most of my work is focused on sexual selection, particularly sperm competition and sexual conflicts.

For those with an interest in reproductive biology, sperm competition and sperm, please see Sperm Biology: An Evolutionary Perspective. Elsevier. Birkhead, T.R., Hosken, D.J. & Pitnick, S. (eds) (2009) see Borders.co.uk  or Elsevier.com  Includes chapters on sperm proteome, history of spermatology, origins of sperm, sperm competition, sperm-egg interactions to name a few and for a report on recent sexual conflict work please see: New Scientist.

For those more broadly interested in sexual selection see our book Genotype by Environment Interactions and Sexual Selection. Hunt J & Hosken DJ (2014).


Research projects

PhD Available:

PhD in Lifespan and healthy ageing, with Prof John Hunt and Prof David

This PhD will harness the power of experimental evolution in two insect
systems (Drosophila simulans and the decorated cricket, Gryllodes
sigillatus) to examine the importance of dietary adaptation in the
evolution of lifespan and healthy ageing.

This is a collaboration between the University of Exeter (UK) and
Western Sydney University (Australia) for a fully-funded PhD studentship
to commence in January 2018 or soon thereafter. Applicants should be
based in the UK or EU and must have a MSc.  Publications in the primary
international literature would be beneficial. For eligible students
the studentship will cover UK/EU tuition fees plus an annual tax-free
stipend of at least 」14,553 for 3.5 years full-time, or pro rata for
part-time study. The student would be based in the Centre for Ecology &
Conservation at the Penryn Campus in Cornwall (University of Exeter)
and the School of Science and Health at the Hawkesbury Campus (Western
Sydney University).

Academic Supervisors:
Professor David Hosken, University of Exeter
Professor John Hunt, Western Sydney University

For further information contact David Hosken:  d.j.hosken@exeter.ac.uk


1. Sexual selection

a) Is sexual selection adaptive? Darwin suggested natural selection would oppose sexual selection, as did Fisher, but also noted that sexual selection could increase non-sexual fitness. Which of these views is correct? I am using laboratory evolution in insect models to investigate this and test if sexual selection does facilitate natural selection.

b) I am also interested in female choice. I have been funded to investiage the costs of female preference, again using insect models. This work looks at the innate costs of carrying certain mate preferences, but I am interested in preference and choice more broadly as this is an area that is relatively under explored.

c) The other main focus in this area is genital evolution. Genitalia are broadly considered to be the fastest evolving morphological characters. While it is widely accepted that sexual selection is responsible for this rapid and divergent evolution, this is a topic that has been subject to little experimental investigation. I again use selection experiments and insects to answer specific questions about genital evolution, and am also interested in further study of the apparent differences between vertebrate and non-vertebrate genital allometry, the scaling of female genitalia, and the genetic architecture of genital characters.

d) GxE in sexual selection.  Most models of sexual selection assume that genetic effects are constant across environments, but this may not be true.  We have been investigating GxE in sexual selection and its impacts.

2. Ontogenetic conflict

Males and females (largely) share the same genes but often have different fitness optima.  This results in evolutionary tug-of-wars over optimal trait values.  How are these conflicts resolved (and can they be)? What are their consequences? And how does intra-locus conflict impact benefits of mate choice?

We investigate these questions in beetles and flies and have recently descibed the first naturally occuring locus at which there is intra-locus sexual conflict, a DDT-resistance locus found in Drosophila.

3. The interaction between environmental and genetic stress and their effects on fitness

Increased inbreeding is a consequences of reduced population size in many systems. In addition, various environmental stresses, including a range of pollutants, are increasingly impinging upon these same populations. I am investigating potential synergies between these two types of stress in fish in collaboration with Professor Charles Tyler at our Streatham Campus.

4. Bat Ecology

Bats spend more than half their time roosting and as a result, roosts are an important resource for them. I am currently involved in projects on bats and windfarms (with Dr Fiona Matthews) and have previously worked on roost use of Cornish bats, and the activity patterns and roost use of bats of the Cayman Islands, plus a study on the spatial ecology of serotine bats in the UK (in conjunction with FERA). Previously, I have worked on bat reproductive biology, metabolism and recently supervised work on the activity patterns and conservation status of cave roosting Madagascan bats.

5. Specific Projects - butterfly genomics, bacteria, sperm and metabolism

I also have on-going investigation of gamete size and use, and the meadow brown butterflies on the Isle of Scilly. This work focusses on following up classical studies conducted by EB Ford and involves indentifying the genes involved in wing patterning.  We are also investigating bacterial effects on fitness, Y-chromosome fitness effects and the metabolic costs of trait expression. In the past I have also worked on immunity, aging, reproductive anatomy and bat reproduction, and also have projects on-going in each of these areas.

Research networks

Prof N Wedell, Prof T Tregenza, Prof C Tyler, Dr R Snook, Prof J Hunt, Dr D Hodgson,  Dr C House, Dr F Matthews, Dr E Westra and Prof A Buckling.

Prof S Pitnick Dr Kensuke Okada, Prof Jacek Radwan, Prof T Miyatake

Research grants

  • 2014 NERC
    Sexual selection and bacteria
  • 2012 BBSRC
    Genetic basis of sexual antagonism
  • 2012 CLES Strategic Development Fund
    Spot genes in Maniola
  • 2012 The Royal Society
    Mutational variance
  • 2011 FERA
    Genetics of badgers
  • 2011 Pierre Hunt Bequest
    Bats in Cornwall
  • 2011 Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour
  • 2011 The Genetics Society
    Summer studentship
  • 2010 ESF Workshop
    GEIs and Sexual Selection
  • 2010 DEFRA
    Bats and wind-farms
  • 2009 NERC
    The rapid evolution of male genitalia
  • 2009 European Social fund
    GxE's in sexual selection
  • 2009 FERA
    Spatial ecology of serotine bats
  • 2008 NERC KT
    Impacts of inbreeding on the responses to pharmaceuticals and fitness consequences in a fish
  • 2008 The Genetics Society
    Maniola & EB Ford
  • 2006 BBSRC
    Sex peptide evolution
  • 2006 NERC
    Sexual conflict coevolution - population size, divergence and the emergence of new variation
  • 2005 European Social fund
    Sexual selection in flies
  • 2003 Swiss National Science Foundation
    Female multiple mating and sperm competition in the dung fly Sepsis cynipsea
  • 2001 Forschungskredit University of Zurich
    Molecular assessment of the importance of sperm number on sperm competition in dung flies
  • 2001 Roche Research Foundation
    Paternity in field captured dung flies

Back | Top of page | Edit Profile | Refresh page