Associate Professor David Merritt

Associate Professor

School of Biological Sciences
Faculty of Science
+61 7 336 53478


Room 307C, Goddard Building

My lab is interested in the evolution and development of the insect body, especially the nervous system and gland system. We are currently looking for genetic links between the two systems. Glands and sense organs are mini-organs that have been termed organules. They are made up of just a few cells so the genetic and cellular basis of their differentiation is of great interest. We study these processes in embryos, larvae and pupae of Drosophila melanogaster, a model organism for genetic studies, using techniques such as light microscopy, immunostaining, and genetic approaches.

We are also investigating the regulation of bioluminescenceby glow-worms, an unusual group of insects found in Australian caves and rain-forests. The larvae of glow-worms produce light from their malpighian tubules to attract prey to their sticky webs. We are studying the phylogenetics and population genetics of cave vs rainforest populations and how they regulate their light output.

Research Impacts

The Entomological Community and Education

Through his role as President of the Australian Entomological Society and as project leader on the ALTC grant, A National Curriculum for Entomology: Capacity Building Through Collaborative, Web-based Delivery, David has helped make entomological studies available to Australian undergraduates students. David and the School of Biological Sciences have developed an education and training collaboration with the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry to provide education for Australia's biosecurity personnel. David maintains the Entomology Australia website, featuring educational opportunities.

Wildlife Tourism and Conservation

Due to his expertise on the biology of bioluminescent insects, David is chair of the Waitomo Caves Environmental Advisory Group, at Waitomo Caves in New Zealand. David oversees the committee's actions and provides biological information used in environmental management, risk management, population and environmental monitoring and crisis response. David has supervised student projects that explore potential human impacts on the glow-worm ecotourism industry based at Natural Bridge in Queensland and has investigated the potential impact of cave lighting on glowworms at the tourist-visited Marakoopa Cave in Tasmania.


  • BSc, The University of Queensland
  • PhD, The University of Queensland


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Book Chapter

  • Cribb, Bronwen W. and Merritt, David J. (2013). Chemoreception. The Insects: Structure and Function. (pp. 771-792) edited by Stephen J. Simpson and Angela E. Douglas. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9781139035460

  • Merritt, D.J. and Clarke, A.K. (2009). Rhythmic regulation of bioluminescence in glowworms, Arachnocampa. Bioluminescence in focus. A collection of illuminating essays. (pp. 291-303) edited by Meyer-Rochow, V.B.. India: Research Signpost.

  • Merritt, D. J. (2007). The organule concept of insect sense organs: Sensory transduction and organule evolution. Advances in Insect Physiology. (pp. 192-241) edited by S. J. Simpson. Oxford, U.K.: Academic Press. doi: 10.1016/S0065-2806(06)33004-4

  • Merritt, D. J. (2005). Evolution and development of the Dipteran nervous system. Evolutionary biology of flies. (pp. 173-195) edited by David K. Yeates and Brian M. Wiegmann. New York, U.S.: Columbia University Press.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision