Associate Professor Michael Kasumovic
Field of Research: 
Evolution, ecology, behaviour, mating strategies
Contact details:
+ 61 2 9385 8091
Room 5105, Level 5 West
Biological Sciences South (E26)

UNSW, Kensington 2052


See also:

For links to Michael's education initiatives, see


Research and current projects

Interconnecting the genotype and the environment using gene experession

The phenotype is determined by complex interactions between the genotype and the environment. Despite the recent insight demonstrating the importance of gene expression in developing phenotypes, we still have a poor understanding of the ecological factors responsible for such variation. The goal of this proposal is to examine how gene sequence and expression profiles differ in response to sexual selection-the factor that is most responsible for the evolution of elaborate traits and speciation.

This project examines sex differences in gene expression in a species where the sexes differentially alter their development in an adaptive manner. This will provide insight into the relative importance of genes and the environment in determining phenotypic expression and how selection affects genetic information. Further, these results will reveal the mechanism by which the sexes mediate intragenomic sexual conflict; a necessary understanding as we move towards a more integrative understanding of ecology, development and evolution.

Re-evaluating evolution by examining developmental plasticity in response to the social environment

Variation in reproductive success is the central tenet of sexual selection, and a key principle underlying the entirety of evolutionary theory. Explaining the factors driving variation is thus among the chief goals of ecology and evolutionary biology. Researchers especially seek to identify traits that grant increased fitness and use trait expression as an indicator of ‘quality’. Unlike fitness, however, quality is a vague term either used as a surrogate for fitness, or describes traits correlated with fitness in a particular context. Because sexually selected traits are costly to produce, one definition of quality centers around genetic variation in condition.

As quality is relative to rivals and my research shows that juveniles ‘eavesdrop’ on adult interactions to adaptively alter trait expression to exploit rivals, a more integrative view of quality that incorporates this adaptive developmental tactic with condition dependence is required. This avenue of my research will provide a more holistic view of how evolution functions by highlighting the importance of the competitive context and adult experiences in trait expression.

How variation in the social environment affects selection and development

Researchers have begun to realize that the strength and direction of selection that individuals encounter can change even within an individual’s lifetime. As this can have a pronounced effect on phenotype-fitness correlations, it is important to understand how changes in the social environment can affect such shifts. A part of my research focuses on examining fitness in fluctuating environments in natural populations.

To understand the effect of a fluctuating social environment requires understanding the effect it has on development as well as adult fitness as cues of the adult competitive environment have an enormous impact on juvenile developmental trajectories. This is a major focus of my research—determining the cues juveniles use to assess the social environment and understanding how individuals shift resource allocation. I have now discovered developmental tactics in numerous taxa in response to a variety of sensory information and am interested in determining the genetic pathways controlling these decisions.

Male quality, fitness and the resolution of contests

Male quality is considered the possession of a suite of traits that afford increased fitness. If phenotype-fitness correlations vary, however, then it is unlikely that a single value can be considered optimal. One part of my research interests thus searches for a new way to conceptualize quality in a way that incorporates variation.

Phenotypic traits, however, are not the only factors that affect contest outcomes as both ownership and previous experience are known to skew contest results. My research looks at the role previous experience and ownership play in contest outcomes. I also examine how such factors can affect the strength and direction of selection as both factors can work to disassociate or strengthen phenotype-fitness associations. Furthermore, I’m interested in how previous experience can affect future performance.

Study organisms and research

Although there is an appeal to using model systems, they can also be somewhat limiting. As a result, I’ve added a number of different spider and insect species to my research repertoire through the years and am always interested in working on new and exciting species. The beauty is the opportunity to use both lab and field techniques to answer various fundamental questions. This provides the ideal means to maintain sanity and excitement in biological research (as well as a handy comparative test to evolutionary and ecological principals).


BIOS3171 Evolution (Lecturer)



Journal Articles

Stoltz, JA, Andrade, MCB & Kasumovic, M, 2012, 'Plasticity in metabolic rates reinforces morphological plasticity in response to social cues of sexual selection', Journal of Insect Physiology, vol. 58, no. 7, pp. 985 - 990,

Kasumovic, M, Hall, M.D., Try, H & Brooks, RC, 2012, 'Developmental plasticity affects condition dependent trait expression', Behavioral Ecology, vol. doi: 10.1093/beheco/ars180,

Kasumovic, M, Hall, M.D. & Brooks, RC, 2012, 'The juvenile social environment introduces variation in the choice and expression of sexually selected traits', Ecology and Evolution, vol. 2, no. 5, pp. 1036 - 1047

Kasumovic, M, Hall, M.D., Try, H & Brooks, RC, 2011, 'The importance of listening: Juvenile allocation shifts in response to acoustic cues of the social environment', Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol. 24, no. 6, pp. 1325 - 1334,

Girard, M, Kasumovic, M & Elias, D, 2011, 'Male multi-modal courtship in the peacock spider, Maratus volans', PLoS One

Lailvaux, SP & Kasumovic, M, 2011, 'Defining individual quality over lifetimes and selective contexts',Proceedings of the Royal Society of London Series B - Biological Sciences, vol. 278, no. 1704, pp. 321 - 328,

Kasumovic, M & Brooks, RC, 2011, 'It?s all who you know: The evolution of socially-cued anticipatory plasticity as a mating strategy', Quarterly Review of Biology

Kasumovic, M, 2011, 'Stressing out about singing', Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 10 - 10,

Kasumovic, M, Andrade, M & Elias, DO, 2011, 'Dynamic population structure and the evolution of mating systems', Advances in Insect Physiology

Kasumovic, M, Mason, A, Andrade, M & Elias, D, 2011, 'The relative importance of RHP and resource quality in contests with ownership asymmetries', Behavioral Ecology, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 39 - 45,

De Souza, L, Kasumovic, M, Judge, K & Morris, G, 2011, 'Communicating male size by tremulatory vibration in a Columbian rainforest katydid, Gnathoclita sodalis (Orthoptera, Tettigoniidae)', Behaviour, vol. 148, no. 3, pp. 341 - 357,

Kasumovic, M, 2010, 'High resource valuation fuels "desperado" fighting tactics in female jumping spiders', Behavioral Ecology, vol. 21, pp. 868 - 875

Kasumovic, M, 2010, 'Vibratory communication in the jumping spider Phidippus clarus: Substrate-borne courtship signals are important for male mating success', Ethology, vol. 116, pp. 990 - 998

Kasumovic, M, 2010, 'Vibratory communication in the jumping spider Phidippus clarus: Polyandry, male courtship signals, and mating success.', Behavioral Ecology, vol. 21, pp. 1308 - 1314

Kasumovic, M, Elias, D, Sivalinghema, Mason, A & Andrade, M, 2010, 'Examination of prior contest experience and the retention of winner and loser effects', Behavioral Ecology, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 404 - 409,

Kasumovic, M, Radcliffe, L & Boag, P, 2009, 'Habitat Fragmentation and Paternity in Least Flycatchers', The Wilson Journal of Ornithology, vol. 121, no. 2, pp. 306 - 313

Kasumovic, M, Brooks, RC & Andrade, M, 2009, 'Body condition but not dietary restriction prolongs lifespan in a semelparous capital breeder', Biology Letters, vol. 5, pp. 636 - 638

Kasumovic, M, Bruce, M, Andrade, M & Herberstein, M, 2009, 'Plasticity in response to demographic variation may help explain continuous phenotypic variation in nature', Ecology, vol. 90, pp. 2287 - 2296

Kasumovic, M, Elias, D, Punzalan, D, Mason, A & Andrade, M, 2009, 'Experience affects the outcome of agonistic contests without affecting the selective advantage of size', Animal Behaviour, vol. 77, no. 6, pp. 1533 - 1538

Kasumovic, M, 2009, 'Evolution: Exposing the buried costs of reproduction', Current Biology, vol. 19, pp. R1117 - R1119

Kasumovic, M & Andrade, M, 2009, 'A change in competitive context reverses sexual selection on male size', Journal of Evolutionary Biology, vol. 22, no. 2, pp. 324 - 333

Elias, D, Kasumovic, M, Punzalan, D, Andrade, M & Mason, A, 2008, 'Assessment during aggressive contests between male jumping spiders.', Animal Behaviour, vol. 76, pp. 901 - 910

Schneider, J, Herberstein, M, Bruce, M, Kasumovic, M, Thomas, M & Elgar, M, 2008, 'Male copulation frequency, sperm competition and genital damage in the golden orb-web spider, Nephila plumipes.',Australian Journal of Zoology, vol. 56, pp. 233 - 238

Kasumovic, M, Andrade, M, Bruce, M & Herberstein, M, 2008, 'Spatial and temporal demographic variation drives within-season fluctuations in sexual selection.', Evolution, vol. 62, pp. 2316 - 2325

Kasumovic, M, Bruce, M, Herberstein, M & Andrade, M, 2007, 'Risky mate search and mate preference in the golden orb-web spider (Nephila plumipes).', Behavioral Ecology, vol. 18, pp. 189 - 195

Kasumovic, M & Andrade, M, 2006, 'Male development tracks rapidly shifting sexual versus natural selection pressures.', Current Biology, vol. 16, pp. R242 - R243

Andrade, M & Kasumovic, M, 2005, 'Terminal investment and male mate choice: Extreme tests of Bateman.', Integrative and Comparative Biology, vol. 45, pp. 838 - 847

Tarof, S, Radcliffe, L, Kasumovic, M & Boag, P, 2005, 'Are least flycatcher (Empidonax minimus) clusters hidden leks?', Behavioral Ecology, vol. 16, pp. 207 - 217

Kasumovic, M & Andrade, M, 2004, 'Discrimination of airborne pheromones by mate-searching black widow males: species- and population-specific responses.', Canadian Journal of Zoology - Revue Canadienne de Zoologie, vol. 82, pp. 1027 - 1034

Kasumovic, M, Radcliffe, L & Boag, P, 2003, 'A method to improve confidence in paternity assignment in an open mating system.', Canadian Journal of Zoology - Revue Canadienne de Zoologie, vol. 81, pp. 2073 - 2076

Kasumovic, M, Ratcliffe, L & Boag, P, 2003, 'Song structure may differ between male and female least flycatchers.', Wilson Bulletin, no. 115, pp. 241 - 245


Conference Papers

Kasumovic, M, Bruce, M, Herberstein, M & Andrade, M, 2008, 'Spatial and temporal demographic variation drives within-season fluctuations in sexual selection', in , presented at Bienniel Congress of the International Society for Behavioral Ecology, Ithaca, USA, August 2008

Kasumovic, M, Elias, D, Punzalan, D, Andrade, M & Mason, A, 2008, 'The role of previous experience on contest outcome and patterns of selection in a jumping spider', in , presented at Ontario Ethology and Ecology Colloquium 2008, Brock University, ON, April 2008

Kasumovic, M, Punzalan, D, Andrade, M & Mason, A, 2007, 'Intrasexual competition in spiders: the role of self assessment in male contests', in , presented at Annual meeting of the Canadian Society for Ecology and Evolution, Toronto, Canada, May 2007

Kasumovic, M & Andrade, M, 2006, 'Male development tracks rapidly shifting sexual versus natural selection pressures', in , presented at Ecology, Evolution, and Behaviour Colloquium, University of Toronto, ON, Canada, March 2006

Kasumovic, M & Andrade, M, 2006, 'Scent of a woman: males track changes in selection pressures through cues of female and male density', in , presented at , QC, Canada, November 2006

Kasumovic, M & Andrade, M, 2005, 'Is bigger better? Examining male competitions in context', in , presented at Joint meeting of Entomological Society of Alberta and The Entomological Society of Canada, AB, Canada, November 2005

Kasumovic, M & Andrade, M, 2003, 'Is staying power more important than size? Tests in the Australian redback spider', in , presented at Ontario Ethology and Ecology Colloquium 2003, McMaster University, ON, July 2003