Professor Mike Lee


College of Science and Engineering

+61 8 82015955
place Information Science & Technology (226)
GPO Box 2100, Adelaide 5001, South Australia

I am interested in broad-scale patterns of evolution, such as major changes in body plan, or why some groups speciate much more rapidly than others. Reptiles are typically the research focus, though I also collaborate with workers on other groups such as birds, mammals and even arthropods. We have recently obtained major funding to work on snake evolution (see below).

I grew up in Queensland (mainly Brisbane) in the 80s, and spent most of my childhood catching and examining any creature that moved, much to my parents horror. I now ostensibly get to do this for a living, except that with encroaching age and committments my research is moving more into theoretical and computational areas. I think Bayesian methods are the future of science.

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  • B.Sc (Hons) in Zoology from the University of Queensland, supervised by Barrie Jamieson.
  • Ph.D (Zoology/Palaeontology) from the University of Cambridge, supervised by Jenny Clack FRS.
Honours, awards and grants



RESEARCH GRANTS (only major (>50K) and current projects listed)

  • Lee, MSY, Sherratt, E. Snake Fangs: implications for evolution, palaeoenvironments and biomechanics. ARC Discovery Grant. $441 000 (2020, 2021, 2022).
  • Lee MSY. Integrating fossils and genomes to resolve the early evolution of snakes. ARC Discovery Grant. $351 000 (2016, 2017, 2018).
  • Prideaux G, Lee MSY et al. Illuminating the evolutionary history of Australia's most iconic animals. ARC Discovery Grant. (2019, 2020, 2021).
  • Long JA, Lee MSY et al. Resolving evolutionary problems at the fish-tetrapod transition. ARC Discovery Grant. $491 000 (2016, 2017, 2018)
  • Thomson V, Jones, MEH, Sumner, J, Lee, MSY, Hutchinson MN, Sanders KL. Testing co-evolutionary processes driving venom diversity in tiger snakes. ARC Linkage Grant. $164 000 (2017, 2018, 2019)
  • Crowe-Riddell, J., Collin, S., Lee, MSY, Sanders, K, Clement A, David-Rabosky A., Plastic brains: Neural adaptations to changing environments in reptiles. ARC Discovery Grant $430 000 (2023, 2024, 2025).


Key responsibilities


  • Dr. Alessandro Palci, ARC-funded Postdoc. Early evolution of snakes; limb loss in reptiles. (jointly hosted by Dr. Emma Sherratt, University of Adelaide).
  • Dr. Jackie Nguyen. ARC DECRA fellow. Songbird evolution. (jointly hosted with Trevor Worthy; also affiliated with Australian Museum, Sydney).
  • Dr. Jenna Crowe-Riddell. Visiting Research fellow. Postdoctoral Fellow at University of Michigan (hosted by A/Prof Alison Davis-Rabosky)


  • Kailah Thorn, Ph.D student. Fossils and morphological evolution of Egernia group skinks (primary supervisor, with Hutchinson and Prideaux).
  • Jacob Blokland, Ph.D student. Evolution of rails (Aves). (associate supervisor, with Trevor Worthy)
  • Ellen Mather, Ph.D student. Fossil accipitrid birds of prey (Aves). (associate supervisor, with Trevor Worthy)
  • James Dorey, Ph.D student. Bee systematics and biodiversity. (associate supervisor, with Mike Schwarz and Mark Stevens)
  • Phoebe McInerney. Ph.D Student. Dromornithbid bird palaeobiology (associate supervisor, with Trevor Worthy)
  • Corinne Mensforth. Ph.D student. Skull and brain evolution across the fish-tetrapod transition. (associate supervisor, with John Long and Alice Clement).
  • Ammresh. Honours Student enrolled via University of Adelaide. Phenotypic plasticity in Tiger Snakes (supervisors: Emma Sherratt and Alessandro Palci).
Teaching interests

I am part of the FLINDERS PALAEONTOLOGY GROUP, one of the best places in Australia to study the deep history of life. This consists of the labs of following academic staff and research fellows addressing questions across all vertebrates - from fish to mammals, and the Cambrian to the Anthropocene.

Supervisory interests
Bayesian analysis in time series or bioinformatics
Cambrian explosion
Vertebrate palaeontology
Higher degree by research supervision
Associate supervisor: Vertebrate Palaeontology (3), evolutionary biology (2)
Higher degree by research student achievements
Benedict King

Best Student Paoer - AUG 2016

Expert for media contact
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Media expertise
  • Biodiversity
  • Palaeontology
  • Reptiles
  • Zoology
Further information

South Australian Museum Office and Lab

    • Ph: 08 8207 7568
    • Email:
    • Mail: Earth Sciences Section, South Australian Museum, North Terrace, Adelaide 5000



I am part of the Flinders Palaeontology Group, one of the best places in Australia to study the deep history of life. This consists of the labs of the following academic staff and research fellows (and their research groups) addressing questions across all vertebrates - from fish to mammals, and the Cambrian to the Anthropocene.

The Conversation