CIE Seminar Series 2017 – ‘Sex, death and disease: revisiting male-female differences in the context of pathogen evolution’

Dr Matthew Hall, School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, Monash University

DATEFriday, 12th May 2017


LOCATION:  Geelong Campus at Waurn Ponds – room ka4.207

(Seminar will be video linked to the following campuses:

Melbourne Campus at Burwood – room T3.22 and Warrnambool Campus – room B3.03

ABSTRACT.  Sex and infection are intimately linked. Many diseases are spread by sexual contact, males are thought to evolve exaggerated sexual signals to demonstrate their immune robustness, and pathogens have been shown to direct the evolution of recombination. 

In all of these examples, infection is influencing the evolution of male and female fitness. Less well known is how sex differences influence pathogen fitness itself. A defining characteristic of sexual dimorphism is not only divergent phenotypes, but also a complex genetic architecture involving changes in genetic correlations among shared fitness traits, and differences in the accumulation of mutations-all, of which may affect selection on an invading pathogen. 

In this talk, I will outline the implications that the genetics of sexual dimorphism can have for host-pathogen coevolution and present some empirical and theoretical results that suggest how male-female differences influence more than just the environment that a pathogen experiences.


BIO. Matt is a Lecturer and DECRA Fellow within the School of Biological Sciences at Monash University. He completed his PhD on the quantitative genetics of sexual conflict under the supervision of Prof. Rob Brooks at UNSW, before moving to Switzerland to work with Prof. Dieter Ebert on questions relating to host-pathogen interactions. 

His research group blends together these two topics and investigates the genetic and environmental causes of variation in health and fitness. Every organism faces the same difficulty of finding a partner, fighting off pathogens, and coping with old age – but some are naturally better at it than others. Projects include understanding how host and pathogen genes interact to influence the severity of infectious disease; contrasting the role of males and females in the evolution of pathogen virulence; and, unraveling how invasion fronts can accelerate or hamper the spread of infectious disease. 

These projects make use of a variety of species of Daphnia, commonly known as the water-flea – a small crustacean that inhabits a range of freshwater habitats, from coastal rock-pools to alpine lakes, and are found throughout Australia and the rest of the world. 


For more info:

Appointments with guest speaker maybe made via

External parties may connect to the live seminar via *N SEBE VMP LES Seminars[ID.36958] or via the methods listedhere


for Deakin staff and students, please join via

Skype for Business (Lync).


As a courtesy, we request that when connecting to the seminar that you mute your microphone unless you are required to speak,

this would ensure that the sound from the speaker to the audience is not disrupted by feedback from your microphone – thanking you in advance!