Dr Amanda Bretman

Lecturer in Animal Biology
School of Biology

Background: I studied for my PhD in Leeds, before carrying out post doctoral research at the University of Exeter (Cornwall Campus) and University of East Anglia. I returned to Leeds in 2013 as an academic fellow.

Contact: Manton 8.21c, +44 (0)113 34 37214, email address for  

You can read more about Dr Bretman's interests here:

Research Interests

evolutionary ecologist specialising in sexual selection and social behaviours

As a behavioural ecologist with a special interest in sexual selection, I try to combine field and lab studies, and behaviour with molecular genetics to understand the evolution of reproductive traits. I use insect model systems, mainly Drosophila fruit flies and Gryllus field crickets.

Behavioural plasticity and the socio-sexual environment

Animals use flexible behaviour to respond to rapidly changing environments. One aspect of the environment that fluctuates rapidly is the social environment. How many other males and females of the same species are in the local vicinity affects competition for food, spread of disease and opportunities to mate. For males it also affects the amount of mating competition they face, and males of many species employ plastic behavioural strategies to match this competitive environment. I have researched this extensively in Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, finding that they have very sophisticated modulation of mating duration dependent on whether they anticipate competition. This affects how many offspring they have and how long they live. I'm now investigating how they achieve this at a genetic and neuronal level, and how social environments generally affect ageing and health.

Individual and population consequences of female multiple mating

Females of many species mate with more males than is strictly necessary to fertilise all their eggs. There are many theories about why they should do this, and some of my previous research has shown that it can be a strategy to avoid the costs of mating with very closely related males (inbreeding) and males of the wrong species. I’m involved in long term collaborations with colleagues at Exeter and Liverpool universities investigating questions about what the consequences of mating rate are for individual females and populations, for example how polyandry keeps selfish genetic elements from wiping out populations. This kind of research can have important implications for conservation and control of pest species.




Faculty Research and Innovation

Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • sperm competition, ageing, senescence, reproductive behaviour

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • sperm competition, ageing, senescence, reproductive behaviour, social behaviour, phenotypic plasticity

See also:

Modules managed

BLGY2222 - Animal Behaviour

Modules taught

BIOL5294M - MSc Bioscience Research Project Proposal
BIOL5392M - Bioscience MSc Research Project
BLGY1125 - Biology Practicals and Data Analysis
BLGY1300 - Coastal and Upland Habitats Field Course
BLGY1304 - Research Experience and Skills Level 1
BLGY2222 - Animal Behaviour
BLGY2301 - Research Experience and Skills Level 2
BLGY3135 - Advanced Topics in Behaviour: from sex to death
BLGY3345 - Biology Integrated Research Projects

Group Leader Dr Amanda Bretman  (Lecturer in Animal Biology)

evolutionary ecologist specialising in sexual selection and social behaviours 


Thomas Leech (Primary supervisor) 80% FTE
Laurin McDowall (Primary supervisor) 50% FTE
Michaela Agapiou (Co-supervisor) 25% FTE
Henricus van Lieshout (Co-supervisor) 20% FTE

Rouse J, Watkinson K, Bretman A Flexible memory controls sperm competition responses to male Drosophila melanogaster Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B 285, 2018
View abstract

Bretman A, Rouse J, Westmancoat JD, Chapman T The role of species-specific sensory cues in male responses to mating rivals in Drosophila melanogaster fruitflies Ecology and Evolution 7 9247-9256, 2017
View abstract

Leech T, Sait SM, Bretman A Sex-specific effects of social isolation on ageing in Drosophila melanogaster Journal of Insect Physiology 102 12-17, 2017
View abstract

Mohorianu I, Bretman A, Smith DT, Fowler EK, Dalmay T, Chapman T Comparison of alternative approaches for analysing multi-level RNA-seq data PLoS ONE 12, 2017
View abstract

Mohorianu II, Bretman A, Smith DT, Fowler E, Dalmay T, Chapman T Genomic responses to socio-sexual environment in male Drosophila melanogaster exposed to conspecific rivals RNA 23 1048-1059, 2017
View abstract

Bretman A, Leech T, Sait S Sex-specific effects of social isolation on ageing in Drosophila melanogaster dataset, 2017

Rouse J, Bretman A Exposure time to rivals and sensory cues affect how quickly males respond to changes in sperm competition threat Animal Behaviour 122 1-8, 2016
View abstract

Bretman A, Rouse J Data associated with Rouse and Bretman 2016’Exposure time to rivals and sensory cues affect how quickly males respond to changes in sperm competition threat’, 2016

Bretman A, Fricke C, Westmancoat JD, Chapman T Effect of competitive cues on reproductive morphology and behavioral plasticity in male fruitflies Behavioral Ecology 27 452-461, 2016
View abstract

Price TA, Bretman A, Gradilla AC, Reger J, Taylor ML, Giraldo-Perez P, Campbell A, Hurst GD, Wedell N Does polyandry control population sex ratio via regulation of a selfish gene? Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 281, 2014
View abstract

Bretman A, Lizé A, Walling CA, Price TA The heritability of mating behaviour in a fly and its plasticity in response to the threat of sperm competition. PLoS One 9 e90236-, 2014
View abstract

Bretman A, Westmancoat JD, Chapman T Male control of mating duration following exposure to rivals in fruitflies Journal of Insect Physiology 59 824-827, 2013
View abstract

Tyler F, Harrison XA, Bretman A, Veen T, Rodríguez-Muñoz R, Tregenza T Multiple post-mating barriers to hybridization in field crickets. Mol Ecol 22 1640-1649, 2013
View abstract

Bretman A, Westmancoat JD, Gage MJG, Chapman T Costs and benefits of lifetime exposure to mating rivals in male drosophila melanogaster Evolution, 2013
View abstract

Price TAR, Lizé A, Marcello M, Bretman A Experience of mating rivals causes males to modulate sperm transfer in the fly Drosophila pseudoobscura. J Insect Physiol 58 1669-1675, 2012
View abstract

Bretman A, Westmancoat JD, Gage MJG, Chapman T Individual plastic responses by males to rivals reveal mismatches between behaviour and fitness outcomes. Proc Biol Sci 279 2868-2876, 2012
View abstract

Rodríguez-Muñoz R, Bretman A, Tregenza T Guarding males protect females from predation in a wild insect. Curr Biol 21 1716-1719, 2011
View abstract

Bretman A, Gage MJG, Chapman T Quick-change artists: male plastic behavioural responses to rivals. Trends Ecol Evol 26 467-473, 2011
View abstract

Bretman A, Rodríguez-Muñoz R, Walling C, Slate J, Tregenza T Fine-scale population structure, inbreeding risk and avoidance in a wild insect population. Mol Ecol 20 3045-3055, 2011
View abstract

Smith DT, Hosken DJ, Rostant WG, Yeo M, Griffin RM, Bretman A, Price TAR, Ffrench-Constant RH, Wedell N DDT resistance, epistasis and male fitness in flies. J Evol Biol 24 1351-1362, 2011
View abstract

Bretman A, Westmancoat JD, Gage MJG, Chapman T Males use multiple, redundant cues to detect mating rivals. Curr Biol 21 617-622, 2011
View abstract

Sinclair BJ, Bretman A, Tregenza T, Tomkins JL, Hosken DJ Metabolic rate does not decrease with starvation in Gryllus bimaculatus when changing fuel use is taken into account Physiological Entomology 36 84-89, 2011
View abstract

Fricke C, Martin OY, Bretman A, Bussière LF, Chapman T Sperm competitive ability and indices of lifetime reproductive success. Evolution 64 2746-2757, 2010
View abstract

Rodríguez-Muñoz R, Bretman A, Slate J, Walling CA, Tregenza T Natural and sexual selection in a wild insect population. Science 328 1269-1272, 2010
View abstract

Bretman A, Fricke C, Hetherington P, Stone R, Chapman T Exposure to rivals and plastic responses to sperm competition in Drosophila melanogaster Behavioral Ecology 21 317-321, 2010
View abstract

Bretman A, Lawniczak MKN, Boone J, Chapman T A mating plug protein reduces early female remating in Drosophila melanogaster. J Insect Physiol 56 107-113, 2010
View abstract

Fricke C, Bretman A, Chapman T Female nutritional status determines the magnitude and sign of responses to a male ejaculate signal in Drosophila melanogaster. J Evol Biol 23 157-165, 2010
View abstract

Bretman A, Newcombe D, Tregenza T Promiscuous females avoid inbreeding by controlling sperm storage. Mol Ecol 18 3340-3345, 2009
View abstract

Wigby S, Sirot LK, Linklater JR, Buehner N, Calboli FCF, Bretman A, Wolfner MF, Chapman T Seminal fluid protein allocation and male reproductive success. Curr Biol 19 751-757, 2009
View abstract

Bretman A, Fricke C, Chapman T Plastic responses of male Drosophila melanogaster to the level of sperm competition increase male reproductive fitness. Proc Biol Sci 276 1705-1711, 2009
View abstract

Fricke C, Bretman A, Chapman T Adult male nutrition and reproductive success in Drosophila melanogaster. Evolution 62 3170-3177, 2008
View abstract

Rodríguez-Muñoz R, Bretman A, Hadfield JD, Tregenza T Sexual selection in the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus: no good genes? Genetica 134 129-136, 2008
View abstract

Bretman A, Dawson DA, Horsburgh GJ, Tregenza T New microsatellite loci isolated from the field cricket Gryllus bimaculatus characterized in two cricket species, Gryllus bimaculatus and Gryllus campestris. Mol Ecol Resour 8 1015-1019, 2008
View abstract

Price TAR, Bretman AJ, Avent TD, Snook RR, Hurst GDD, Wedell N Sex ratio distorter reduces sperm competitive ability in an insect. Evolution 62 1644-1652, 2008
View abstract

Rodríguez-Muñoz R, Bretman A, Hadfield JD, Tregenza T Sexual selection in the cricket Gryllus bimaculatus: no good genes? Genetica 132 287-294, 2008
View abstract

Bretman A, Tregenza T Strong, silent types: the rapid, adaptive disappearance of a sexual signal Trends in Ecology and Evolution 22 226-228, 2007
View abstract

Bretman A, Rodriguez-Munoz R, Tregenza T Male dominance determines female egg laying rate in crickets BIOLOGY LETTERS 2 409-411, 2006

Bretman A, Tregenza T Measuring polyandry in wild populations: a case study using promiscuous crickets MOLECULAR ECOLOGY 14 2169-2179, 2005

Bretman AJ, Wedell N, Tregenza T Molecular evidence of post-copulatory inbreeding avoidance in the field cricket Gryllus bimaculatus Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B. Biological Sciences 271 159-164, 2004
View abstract

Dawson DA, Bretman AJ, Tregenza T Microsatellite loci for the field cricket, Gryllus bimaculatus and their cross-utility in other species of Orthoptera MOL ECOL NOTES 3 191-195, 2003

Haynes S, Searle JB, Bretman A, Dobney KM Bone preservation and ancient DNA: The application of screening methods for predicting DNA survival Journal of Archaeological Science 29 585-592, 2002
View abstract