Claire Mclean

Dr Claire McLean

Ian Potter Research Fellow

About me

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My research combines field work, behavioural studies, and genetics to answer fundamental evolutionary questions, with a particular interest in colour variation and its role in adaptation and the formation of new species.

I obtained my PhD through The University of Melbourne in 2014. My PhD research investigated the evolution and maintenance of discrete colour forms (colour polymorphism) in the tawny dragon lizard, Ctenophorus decresii. I then took up a postdoctoral research position, also at The University of Melbourne, to investigate the genetic basis of colour variation, using the latest molecular methods.

I commenced my current role as Ian Potter Research Fellow at Museums Victoria in 2020. The project investigates the impacts of fire regimes on reptiles and invertebrates in the Little Desert, with the aim to inform future management decisions for the region.


PhD, Zoology, The University of Melbourne, 2014

BSc (Hons), The University of Melbourne, 2009

Key publications

McLean, C.A., Stuart-Fox, D. 2014. Geographic variation in animal colour polymorphisms and its role in speciation. Biological Reviews 89 (4): 860–873. doi: 10.1111/brv.12083

McLean, C.A., Lutz, A., Rankin, K.J., Stuart-Fox, D., Moussalli, A. 2017. Revealing the biochemical and genetic basis of color variation in a polymorphic lizard. Molecular Biology and Evolution 34(8): 1924–1935. doi: 10.1093/molbev/msx136

Stuart-Fox, D., Aulsebrook, A., Rankin, K.J., Dong, C.M., McLean, C.A. 2021. Convergence and divergence in lizard colour polymorphisms. Biological Reviews 96(1): 289–309. doi: 10.1111/brv.12656

McLean, C.A., Lutz, A., Rankin, K.J., Elliott, A., Moussalli, A., Stuart-Fox, D. 2019. Red carotenoid and associated gene expression explain colour variation in frillneck lizards. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 286(1907): 20191172. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2019.1172


McLean, C.A., Moussalli, A., Sass, S., Start-Fox, D. 2013. Taxonomic assessment of the Ctenophorus decresii complex (Reptilia:Agamidae) reveals a new species of dragon lizard from western New South Wales. Records of the Australian Museum 65(3): 51–63. doi: 10.3853/j.2201-4349.65.2013.1600


Teaching and students

I'm available for student supervision.

Current Students:

Jaclyn Harris (Ph.D, Monash University). Fire regimes and reptiles: how does current fire management impact reptiles and how can we mitigate these impacts?

Madison Staff (Honours, Monash University). The impacts of fire on the structure and diversity of ant (family Formicidae) within the Little Desert National Park.

Past Students:

Caroline Dong (Ph.D, The University of Melbourne). Speciation and secondary contact in a colourful agamid, Ctenophorus decresii.


Peer Reviewed Publications

Stuart-Fox, D., Rankin, K.J., Lutz, A., Elliott, A., Hugall, A., McLean, C.A., Medina, I. 2021. Environmental gradients predict the ratio of environmentally aquired carotenoids to self-synthesised pteridine pigments. Ecology Letters. doi: 10.22541/au.162193184.44620652/v1

Dong, C.M., Rankin, K.J., McLean, C.A., Stuart-Fox, D. 2021. Maternal reproductive output and F1 hybrid fitness may influence contact zone dynamics. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 34(4): 680–694. doi: 10.1111/jeb.13772

Dong, C.M., Johnston, G.R., Stuart-Fox, D., Moussalli, A. Rankin, K.J., McLean, C.A. 2021. Elevation of divergent color polymorphic and monomorphic lizard lineages (Squamata: Agamidae) to species level. Ichthyology & Herpetology 109(1): 43–54. doi: 10.1643/h2020064

McLean, C.A., Bartle, R.A., Dong, C.M., Rankin, K.J., Stuart-Fox, D. 2020. Divergent male and female mate preferences do not explain incipient speciation between lizard lineages. Current Zoology 66(5): 485–492. doi: 10.1093/cz/zoaa010

Dong, C.M., McLean, C.A., Moussalli, A., Stuart-Fox, D. 2019. Conserved visual sensitivities across divergent lizard lineages that differ in an unltraviolet sexual signal. Ecology and Evolution 9(20): 11824–11832. doi: 10.1002/ece3.5686

Yewers, M.S.C., Stuart-Fox, D, McLean, C.A. 2018. Space use and genetic structure do not maintain color polymorphism in a species with alternative behavioural strategies. Ecology and Evolution 9(1): 295–306. doi: 10.1002/ece3.4729

Rankin, K.J., McLean, C.A., Kemp, D.J., Stuart-Fox, D. 2016. The genetic basis of discrete and quantitative colour varition in the polymorphic lizard, Ctenophorus decresii. BMC Evolutionary Biology 16(1): 1–14. doi: 10.1186/s12862-016-0757-2

McLean, C.A., Chan, R., Dickerson, A.L., Moussalli, A., Stuart-Fox, D. 2016. Social interactions generate mutually reinforcing selection for male aggression in Lake Eyre dragons. Behavioral Ecology 27(4): 1149–1157. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arw028

McLean, C.A., Stuart-Fox, D., Moussalli, A. 2015. Environment, but not genetic divergence, influences geographic variation in colour morph frequencies in a lizard. BMC Evolutionary Biology 15(1): 1–10. doi: 10.1186/s12862-015-0442-x

Yewers, M.S.C., McLean, C.A., Moussalli, A., Stuart-Fox, D., Bennett, A.T.D., Knott, B. 2015. Spectral sensitivity of cone photoreceptors and opsin expression in two colour-divergent lineages of the lizard Ctenophorus decresii. Journal of Experimental Biology 218(10): 1556–1563. doi: 10.1242/jeb.119404

McLean, C.A., Stuart-Fox, D. 2015. Roval assessment and comparison of morphological and performance-based predictors of fighting ability in Lake Eyre dragon lizards, Ctenophorus maculosus. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 69(4): 523–531. doi: 10.1007/s00265-014-1863-z

McLean, C.A., Moussalli, A., Stuart-Fox, D. 2014. Local adaptation and divergence in colour signal conspicuousness between monomorphic and polymorphic lineage in a lizard. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27(12): 2654–2664. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12521

McLean, C.A., Stuart-Fox, D., Moussalli, A. 2014. Phylogeographic structure, demographic history and morph composition in a colour polymorphic lizard. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 27(10): 2123–2137. doi: 10.1111/jeb.12464

McLean, C.A., Stuart-Fox, D. 2010. Do female Lake Eyre dragon lizards adjust courtship rejection behaviour under higher predation risk? Behaviour 147(13): 1803–1818. doi: 10.1163/000579510X537378

McLean, C.A., Moussalli, A., Stuart-Fox, D. 2010. The predation cost of female resistance. Behavioral Ecology 21(4):861–867. doi: 10.1093/beheco/arq072

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