Dr Vera Weisbecker


School of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Science
+61 7 336 57071


I use quantitative analysis of large-scale datasets to develop and test hypotheses regarding the historical and developmental rules under which vertebrate morphological diversity evolves. My current main interests are:

  • The role that skeletal development plays in restricting mammalian (and general vertebrate) skeletal diversity and
  • Linking developmental regularities of brain growth with the evolution of the tremendous size of the mammalian brain.

Australia is the only continent whose mammal fauna is dominated by marsupials (e.g. kangaroos and koalas) and monotremes (platypus and echidnas). Unlike placentals, these two groups are born at a highly immature stage, a difference that is known to fundamentally impact on the evolutionary trajectories of morphological diversity. To understand the details of this interaction, I am taking advantage of the easy availability of marsupials and monotremes in Australia to collect large-scale data on their development and diversity. I employ a wide range of data collection methods, including CT scanning, dissection, morphometrics, histology, and chemical staining. I then quantitatively analyse and interpret these data using perspectives gained from embryology, life history, physiology, ecology and palaeontology.


  • Doctor of Philosophy, University of New South Wales


  • Carlisle, Alison, Selwood, Lynne, Hinds, Lyn A., Saunders, Norman, Habgood, Mark, Mardon, Karine and Weisbecker, Vera (2017) Testing hypotheses of developmental constraints on mammalian brain partition evolution, using marsupials. Scientific Reports, 7 1: . doi:10.1038/s41598-017-02726-9

  • Debono, Jordan, Dobson, James, Casewell, Nicholas R., Romilio, Anthony, Li, Bin, Kurniawan, Nyoman, Mardon, Karine, Weisbecker, Vera, Nouwens, Amanda , Kwok, Hang Fai and Fry, Bryan G. (2017) Coagulating colubrids: evolutionary, pathophysiological and biodiscovery implications of venom variations between boomslang (Dispholidus typus) and twig snake (Thelotornis mossambicanus). Toxins, 9 5: . doi:10.3390/toxins9050171

  • Davies, Thomas G., Rahman, Imran A., Lautenschlager, Stephan, Cunningham, John A., Asher, Robert J., Barrett, Paul M., Bates, Paul M., Bengtson, Stefan, Benson, Roger B. J., Boyer, Doug M., Braga, Jose, Bright, Jen A., Claessens, Leon P. A. M., Cox, Philip G., Dong, Xi-Ping, Evans, Alistair R., Falkingham, Peter L., Friedman, Matt, Garwood, Russell J., Goswami, Anjali, Hutchinson, John R., Jeffery, Nathan S., Johanson, Zerina, Lebrun, Renaud, Martinez-Perez, Carlos, Marugan-Lobon, Jesus, O'Higgins, Paul M., Metscher, Brian, Orliac, Maeva, Rowe, Timothy B., Rucklin, Martin, Sanchez-Villagra, Marcelo R., Shubin, Neil H., Smith, Selena Y., Starck, J. Matthias, Stringer, Chris, Summers, Adam P., Sutton, Mark D., Walsh, Stig A., Weisbecker, Vera, Witmer, Lawrence M., Wroe, Stephen, Yin, Zongjun, Rayfield, Emily J. and Donoghue, Philip C. J. (2017) Open data and digital morphology. Proceedings of the Royal Society B- Biological Sciences, 284 1852: . doi:10.1098/rspb.2017.0194

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Book Chapter

  • Weisbecker, Vera (2015). Are monotremes primitive and marsupials inferior?. In Athol Klieve, Lindsay Hogan, Stephen Johnston and Peter Murray (Ed.), Marsupials and monotremes: nature's enigmatic mammals (pp. 397-411) New York, NY, United States: Nova Science.

  • Weisbecker, Vera and Beck, Robin (2015). Marsupial and monotreme evolution and biogeography. In Athol Klieve, Lindsay Hogan, Stephen Johnston and Peter Murray (Ed.), Marsupials and monotremes: nature's enigmatic mammals (pp. 1-31) New York, NY, United States: Nova Science.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Goswami, Anjali, Weisbecker, Vera and Villagra, Marcelo (2008). Developmental modularity and the marsupial-placental dichotomy. In: 68th Annual Meeting of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, Cleveland, United States, (85A-85A). 15-18 October 2008.

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Master Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors: