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I've spent my academic career based at the Zoology Department in Cambridge, though during that time I've held visiting fellowships at the Australian National University and Cornell University, when I travelled there for fieldwork. After finishing my PhD, I was a Junior Research Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge and then was awarded a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Research Fellowship followed by a Royal Society University Research Fellowship. In 2004, I was appointed to a University Lectureship, which I took up in 2007. In 2008 and 2010 I was on maternity leave. I was promoted to Reader in 2009 and to Professor in 2013. I was appointed Director of the Cambridge University Museum of Zoology in October 2019.



Our research investigates how behaviour evolves and how adaptive behaviour in turn influence subsequent evolutionary change. We're specifically interested in how parental behaviour contributes to the evolutionary process through its effects on genetic and phenotypic diversity; through the way in which parents facilitate non-genetic inheritance; and the many ways in which parents act as agents of natural selection.

Our current research focuses mainly on burying beetles, though we continue to study bird species as well.

Our main collaborators are Dr Naomi Langmore (Australian National University), Dr Stuart Wigby and Prof Rob Beynon (University of Liverpool); and Dr Cassie Stoddard (Princeton).


Key publications: 


Sun, S. J. and Kilner, R. M. 2020 Temperature stress induces mites to help their carrion beetle hosts by eliminating rival blowflies. eLife 2020;9:e55649

Sun, S. J., Catherall, A. M., Pascoal, S., Jarrett, B. J., Miller, S. E., Sheehan, M. J. and Kilner, R. M. 2020 Rapid local adaptation linked with phenotypic plasticity. Evolution Letters

Rebar, R., Bailey, N. W., Jarrett, B. J. M., and Kilner, R. M. 2020 An evolutionary switch from sibling rivalry to sibling cooperation, caused by a sustained loss of parental care. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 117:2544-2550.

Jarrett, B.J. M., Evans E., Haynes H. B., Leaf M., Rebar D., Duarte A., Schrader M. and Kilner, R. M. 2018. A sustained change in the supply of parental care causes adaptive evolution of offspring morphology Nature Communications 9:3987

Pascoal, S., Jarrett. B. J. M., Evans, E. & Kilner, R. M. 2018 Superior stimulation of female fecundity by subordinate males provides a mechanism for telegony. Evolution Letters 2:114-125

Duarte, A., Welch, M., Swannack, C., Wagner, J. & Kilner, R. M. 2018 Strategies for managing rival bacterial communities: lessons from burying beetles. Journal of Animal Ecology 87:414-427

Jarrett, B.J. M., Schrader, M., Rebar, D. Houslay, T. M. & Kilner, R. M. 2017 Cooperative interactions within the family modulate the capacity for evolutionary change in body size. Nature Ecology and Evolution 1:0178


Other publications: 

Full list of publications via Google Scholar


Professor of Evolutionary Biology

Contact Details

Museum of Zoology, David Attenborough Building, Downing St