Rowell Group - Population genetics, karyology and phylogeography of terrestrial invertebrates

Rowell Lab members in the field

We are interested in the mechanisms behind the proximal processes of evolution – those that lead to population differentiation, divergence and ultimately speciation. Our group specialises in terrestrial invertebrates because their abundance and low dispersal rates make them excellent models for addressing basic evolutionary principles. Currently we are studying huntsman and funnelweb spiders, fergusonid flies and Onychophora. We use a number of different approaches including the examination of behaviour, morphology, sequence data and chromosomal variation.


Divisional Visitor

Honorary Group Leader

PhD Student


Selected publications

  • Barclay S., Rowell D.M. & Ash J.E. 2000 Pheromonally-mediated colonisation patterns in Onychophora. J. Zool. Lond 250: 437-446
  • Rockman M.V. & Rowell D.M. 2002 Episodic chromosomal evolution in Planipapillus: a phylogenetic approach to evolutionary dynamics and speciation. Evolution 56: 58 - 69
  • Rowell D.M, Rockman M.V. & Tait N.N. 2002 Extensive Robertsonian Rearrangement: Implications for the radiation and biogeography of Planipapillus Reid (Onychophora : Peripatopsidae). J. Zool. Lond. 257: 171 - 179
  • Reinhard J. & Rowell D.M. 2005 Social behaviour in an Australian velvet worm, Euperipatoides rowelli (Onychophora : Peripatopsidae). J. Zool. Lond. 267: 1  - 7
  • Gruetzner, F., Ashley T., Rowell D. & Graves J.M. (2006) How did the platypus get its sex chromosome chain? A comparison of meiotic multiples and sex chromosomes in plants and animals. Chromosoma 115: 75 - 88
  • Strausfeld N.J., Strausfeld C.M., Stowe S., Rowell D.M. & Loesel R. (2006) Organisation of neuropils in the brain of the onychophoran Euperipatoides rowelli and its evolutionary implications. Arthropod Structure and Development 35: 169 – 196
  • Sharp H.E. & Rowell D.M. (2007) Unprecedented chromosomal diversity and behaviour modify linkage patterns and speciation processes: structural Heterozygosity in an Australian Spider. J. Evol. Biol. 20: 2427 - 2439
  • Garrick R.C., Rowell D.M., Simmons C.S., Hillis D.M. & Sunnucks P. (2008) Fine-scale phylogeographic congruence despite demographic incongruence in two low-mobility saproxylic springtails. Evolution 62: 1103-1118
  • Beavis A.S., Sunnucks P.  & Rowell D.M. (2011) Microhabitat preferences drive phylogeographic disparities in two Australian funnel web spiders. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. Lond. 104 : 805-819
  • Yip E., Rowell D.M. & Rayor L. (2012) Behavioural and molecular evidence for selective immigration and group regulation in the social huntsman spider, Delena cancerides. Biol. J. Linn. Soc. Lond. 106: 749 - 762
  • Garrick R.C., Rowell D.M. & Sunnucks P. (2012) Phylogeography of Saproxylic and Forest Floor Invertebrates from Tallaganda, South-eastern Australia. Insects 3: 270 – 294
  • Jeffery N.W., Oliveira I.S., Gregory T.R., Rowell D.M., Mayer G. (2012) Genome size and chromosome number in velvet worms (phylum Onychophora). Genetica, 140: 497-504.
  • Bull JK*, Sands CJ*, Garrick RC, Gardner M, Tait NN, Briscoe DA, Rowell DM, Sunnucks P. (2014) Environmental complexity and biodiversity: the multi-layered evolutionary history of a log-dwelling velvet worm in montane temperate Australia. PLoS ONE. 8: e84559. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084559

News & events


Thirty-three undergraduate students from a variety of backgrounds spent 2 weeks in Cape Tribulation, north of Cairns, this month, as part of the BIOL 2203/3303, Field studies in functional ecology course.
A new species of Funnelweb spider from Jervis Bay. Photo: Stuart Hay
Scientists studying funnel-web spiders at Booderee National Park near Jervis Bay, NSW, have found a large example of an unexpected funnel-web species.
Congratulations to the six RSB members who have been promoted to Level E Professor as of 1 January 2015.


From the urban jungle to forest science

When it comes to land, Singapore’s biggest challenge is being small. One man who is working to alleviate the impact of Singapore’s land constraints is ANU alumnus, Mark Wong.
Mark in the field. Photograph courtesy Mark Wong

National Geographic Young Explorer: Mark Wong

Mark Wong, who completed Honours in 2014, has been featured in National Geographic as a Young Explorer Grantee for his work on funnelback spiders.

Updated:  19 November 2019/Responsible Officer:  Director RSB/Page Contact:  Webmaster RSB