Dr Mike Lee

Senior Research Scientist Palaeontology

+61 8 8207 7568


Mike started catching lizards in primary school and never dreamt that he would one day be paid to do it.


Position at Other Organisation

  • Joint Appointment as Professor in the School of Biological Sciences, Flinders University 


Research Interests  

Mike's research group uses multidisciplinary approaches to understand major evolutionary transitions - this includes molecular phylogenetics, anatomy, and the fossil record. Current research areas include: molecular systematics and dating, reptile phylogeny (especially skinks, geckos, and fossils), limb reduction in tetrapods, snake origins and diversification, and the Cambrian explosion.


Current Research Projects

The developmental genetics of major evolutionary transitions: limb reduction in lizards. M. Lee and A. Skinner.  2012–2014, Australian Research Council Discovery Grant.

Islands of rocks: geckos as a model system to understand patterns of biodiversity, endemism and speciation in the Kimberley.  M. Lee and P. Oliver.  2012–2014, Australian Research Council Linkage Grant.

Beyond barcoding: understanding biodiversity in diverse frontier for tropical biology - New Guinea. M. Lee and P. Oliver.  Australia and Pacific Science Foundation, 2011– 2013.



  • BSc, University of Queensland (1990)

  • PhD, University of Cambridge (1995) 


Current Teaching Responsibilities

Undergraduate course at the University of Adelaide:

  •  Evolutionary Biology 3 (Course coordinator)


Supervision of PhD students from the University of Adelaide:

  •  Keiren Mitchell
  • Kanishka Ukuwela
  • Matthew Taylor


Community Engagement

Mike Lee regularly engage in media outreach.  Some of his popular articles are collated here:



Media Expertise 

Palaeobiology.  Evolutionary Biology.



  1. Lee, M. S. Y.  (2013).  Turtles in Transition.   Current Biology [for June 2013].
  2. Sanders, K. L., Rasmussen, A. R., Mumpuni, Elmberg, J., Silva, A., Guinea, M. L., and Lee, M. S. Y. (2013).  Recent rapid speciation and ecomorph divergence in Indo-Australian sea snakes (Hydrophiinae). Molecular Ecology 10: 2742–2759.
  3. Soubrier, J., Steele, M., Lee, M. S. Y., de Sarkissian, C., Guindon, S., Ho, S. Y. W., and Cooper, A.  (2012).  The influence of rate heterogeneity among sites on the time dependence of molecular rates.  Molecular Biology and Evolution 29: 3345–3358.
  4. Lee, M. S. Y. and Worthy T. W. (2012).  Likelihood reinstates Archaeopteryx as a primitive bird.  Biology Letters 8: 299–303.
  5. Paterson, J. R., García-Bellido, D. C., Lee, M. S. Y., Brock, G. A., Jago, J. B., and Edgecombe, G. D. (2011).  Acute vision in the giant Cambrian predator Anomalocaris and the origin of compound eyes.Nature 480 (7376): 237–240.  [Cover Story]
  6. Lee, M. S. Y., Jago, J. B., García-Bellido, D. C., Edgecombe, G. D., Gehling, J. G., and Paterson, J. R. (2011). Modern optics in exceptionally preserved eyes of Early Cambrian arthropods from Australia. Nature 474: 631–634.
  7. Lee, M. S. Y. (2011).  Macroevolutionary implications of spatial sorting.   Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 108: E347.
  8. Phillips, M. J., Bennett, T., and Lee, M. S. Y.  (2009).  Molecules and morphology suggest a recent, amphibious ancestry for echidnas.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106: 17089–17094.
  9. Oliver, P.M., Adams, M., Lee, M. S. Y., Hutchinson, M. N., and Doughty, P. (2009).  The taxonomic impediment in vertebrates: DNA sequence, allozyme and chromosomal data double estimates of species diversity in a lineage of Australian lizards (Diplodactylus, Gekkota). Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B. 276:  2001–2007.