Prof Amanda Bretman


I studied for my PhD in Leeds, before taking up post doctoral research positions at the University of Exeter (Cornwall Campus) and the University of East Anglia. I returned to Leeds in 2013 as an academic fellow, became a lecturer in 2017, Associate Professor in 2020 and Professor in 2023.


  • Dean of Research Quality

Research interests

As a behavioural ecologist with particular interests in social and sexual interactions, I combine behavioural and molecular techniques to understand the evolution of responses to social environments. I use insect model systems, mainly Drosophila fruit flies.

Reproductive behavioural plasticity and the socio-sexual environment

Animals use flexible behaviour to respond to rapidly changing environments. One aspect of the environment that fluctuates rapidly is the social environment. How many other males and females of the same species are in the local vicinity affects competition for food, spread of disease and opportunities to mate. For males it also affects the amount of mating competition they face, and males of many species employ plastic behavioural strategies to match this competitive environment. I have researched this extensively in Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, finding that they have very sophisticated modulation of mating duration dependent on whether they anticipate competition. This affects how many offspring they have and how long they live. We are now investigating how they achieve this at a genetic and neuronal level.

Responses to social contact versus isolation

The social environment can have profound effects on human biology, and this is also the case in many other animals, even those not classically thought of as “social”. We are using fruit flies to investigate how social environments generally affect ageing and health. We find that social contact versus isolation affects many aspects including stress responses, immune responses, cognitive abilities, and microbiome complexity. Isolation is not always negative and males and females react differently. We are now exploring why these differences between traits and between individuals exist and how they are controlled at the molecular level.

Thermal effects on reproduction

As the world heats up, this affects many areas of biology. However, the thermal limits on reproduction has been much less studied than lethal thermal limits, yet reproductive limits better match natural species ranges. We are exploring the mechanisms that may make some species more sensitive to high temperature, along with differences between sexes in sensitivity and the interaction with life stage and ageing. This might help us to identify species of more conservation concern and perhaps develop mitigations for example to support livestock production.


I am a member of the Ecology and Evolution and Heredity, Development and Disease reearch themes in the School of Biology.

<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD
  • MRes
  • BSc

Professional memberships

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology

Student education

I teach on various modules on topics around sperm competition, ageing, senescence, reproductive behaviour, social behaviour, phenotypic plasticity, sperm competition, ageing, senescence and reproductive behaviour

Studentship information

Undergraduate project topics:

  • sperm competition, ageing, senescence, reproductive behaviour

Postgraduate studentship areas:

  • sperm competition, ageing, senescence, reproductive behaviour, social behaviour, phenotypic plasticity

See also:

Research groups and institutes

  • Ecology and Evolution
  • Heredity, Development and Disease
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>We welcome enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>