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Curtin University
Staff Profile

Dr Bill Bateman

Dr Bill Bateman Dr Bill Bateman
Position Senior Lecturer
Faculty Faculty of Science and Engineering
School School of Science
Department Department of Environment and Agriculture
Campus Bentley Campus
Location 311.147
Phone 08 9266 2021
Google Scholar

Brief Summary

CUBE - Curtin University: Behavioural Ecology

I am a wildlife biologist. This is a very broad title and my own interests lie primarily in behaviour, conservation, and ecophysiology and I have published over 85 papers and book chapters in this area. I worked in Africa and America before locating to Australia, where we have a 'Curtin University Behavioural Ecology' (CUBE) group.  We collaborate with other researchers, particularly at Murdoch University, and together we have formed a 'Western Wildlife Ecology and Behaviour' group, the members of which have a wide range of interests and expertise. We are always keen to make links with other researchers and to hear from excellent students that want to make an impact in this area.

Research Interests

I am primarily a behavioural ecologist and as such I am not limited to particular taxa and have worked on invertebrates through to large mammals.  Having said that, I have a special affection for insects (especially crickets) and lizards and other reptiles. Much of my research has centred on sex and death: how animals find and choose mates and how animals avoid death through predation; I have a particular interest in dramatic tactics like autotomy: the shedding of part of the body to escape predation, such as lizards shedding their tail, or insects their legs. I am interested in sexual selection; in particular how it can influence physiology and anatomy as well as behaviour, such as the size and structure of genitalia in mammals and sexual dimorphism in body size and muscle development in kangaroos. I am also interested in animals in urban environments: some birds and mammals do very well in urban areas, others do not - in Australia there are both natives e.g. bandicoots and kangaroos, and introduced species e.g. foxes, in which we have much interest. Our group has several potential projects available for future Hons. and PhD students in these areas and I would welcome any enquiries.

Collaborators include:

Dr Christine Cooper (Curtin Uni.)

Prof. Trish Fleming (Murdoch Uni.)

Dr Nat Warburton (Murdoch Uni.)

Dr Pete Adams (Murdoch Uni.)

Prof. Nigel Bennett (University of Pretoria, South Africa)

Media links:

Squirrels in New York City: Curtin media release  , Science WA, Vice

The function of blue tails in lizards: Science WA 

Grasshopper escape behaviour: Science WA

Sexual selection in kangaroos: Science WA, and several other places.

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Specialty Areas

I am currently carrying out research in these main areas:

Sexual selection and sperm competition:

Sexual selection can do wonderful things to genitalia and to production of sperm - we are exploring SS and sexual dimorphism in kangaroos and other Australian and overseas taxa

Urban wildlife:

Cities can be challenging places to live for wildlife, and yet some species do very well indeed in urbanised landscapes.  We are exploring the adaptations and behaviour of reptiles, mammals and birds in response to urbanisation and roads.

PhD student Ashleigh Wolfe has a Facebook page for her research on urban snakes and lizards

Evolution and maintenance of autotomy in lizards and invertebrates:

One of the most dramatic antipredator tactics an animal can use it to voluntarily shed part of its body.  We are carrying out research in the short and long term costs of this tactic in reptiles and invertebrates

Vigilance and escape behaviour in birds, reptiles and mammals:

Escape behaviour is a useful measure of risk assessment by animals and can be relatively easily measured and manipulated.  We have used it to examine how animals react to humans in both prsitine and human-altered landscapes

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Featured Publications

Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Book Chapters (Research)

Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)


Journal Articles (Research)

Additional publication categories


Journal Articles (Scholarly/Professional)

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Potential projects and Current Students

Potential projects:

Any Honours or postgraduate student interested in behavioural ecology may contact me to discuss potential projects.

Foxes at your front door? (in collaboration with Murdoch University)

Red foxes are well-established across the southern two thirds of the Australian continent and have been implicated in the decline of many Australian species.  They are particularly problematic around peri-urban areas, where foxes are attracted by readily available food and can consequently reach high population densities.  For example, previous studies recorded fox numbers in Melbourne of up to 16 foxes/km2 (compared with up to ~2 foxes/km2 for studies in rural areas). This project investigates behaviour of foxes in peri-urban sites around Perth, looking at:

Do roads act as ecological traps for macropods? (in collaboration with Murdoch University)

For many Australians, the most frequent sighting of a kangaroo is when it is dead on the side of the road.  This may reflect greater incidence of resources along roads, use of the road itself as a clear avenue for movement, or the animal’s reactions to oncoming vehicles.  This study will assess various aspects for GPS-collared brush wallabies:  

Autotomy and locomotory energetics in lizards and invertebrates

Voluntary shedding of a tail or limb can save an organism from death by predation but it comes with costs, particularly to foraging and to locomotion.


Suggestions for Honours projects:

Sexual selection in dugites 

This project would involve dissection of museum specimens.  Dugites are large venomous elapids common in WA.  The males have paired penises (hemipenes) that are armed with spikes and hooks.  The project would explore the development of these possibly sexually-selected structures, including exploring the growth patterns (allometry) of dugite genitalia as they become sexually mature

The influence of sexual selection on anatomical correlates of mate-searching in snakes

Snakes search for mates using olfactory information gathered by the forked tongue.  This project would explore differences between species and sexes in tongue morphology of museum specimens.

Tail autotomy and diet in legless lizards

WA is a centre of endemism for pygopodid lizards: these large, longtailed lizards are dramatically altered in size and mobility by the shedding of their tails (defensive autotom).  Using museum specimens, this project would explore the influence of autotomy on the diet of pygopodids that eat invertebrates vs. those that eat vertebrates.

Bite force in lizards: sexual dimorphism or defensive behaviour?

Lizards use their jaws to eat, to fight rivals and to defend themselves against predators.  This study would try to disentangle these three selective pressures in a model species.



A. Wolfe: Urban reptiles: Face Book Page

E. Dalle-Nogares: Ecological mechanisms driving reptile responses to fire

S. Dawson: Ecology of bilbies

B. Jones: Anti-predator behaviour of scrub jays


L. Banks: Adaptive personality traits in crickets

R. Mason: Autotomy and locomotory energetics in crickets

A. Kontoor: Ecology of Drosera

S. Allsop: Fox bait uptake

M. Banks: Sperm competition in kangaroos

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