Dr Sarah Lane

Dr Sarah Lane

Lecturer in Behaviour and Evolution

School of Biological and Marine Sciences (Faculty of Science and Engineering)




2022-Present Lecturer in Behaviour and Evolution, University of Plymouth
2018-2022  Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Plymouth - ‘The role of skill in animal contests: analysis of a neglected RHP trait in fighting hermit crab’ (Named Researcher Co-I, Prof Mark Briffa as PI)
2015- 2018 Post-doctoral Research Fellow, University of Plymouth - The role of additive and non-additive genetic effects during animal contests in the beadlet sea anemone Actinia equina’ (with Prof Mark Briffa, Prof Alistair Wilson (Uni of Exeter) & Dr Manuela Truebano Garcia)
2012-2015 PhD "The role of cuticular hydrocarbons in determining male reproductive success", University of Exeter, Penryn Campus
2011-2012 MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology (with Distinction), University of Exeter, Penryn Campus
2008-2011 BSc Zoology (Hons) 1st class, University of Exeter, Penryn Campus

Other roles
2018-Present Post-doc representative for School of Biological and Marine Science’s Athena SWAN panel.
2017-2018 Member of the organising committee for Easter 2018 conference of Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB).
2016-2018 Early Career Researcher representative on Plymouth University's central Athena SWAN SAT (Self- assessment) team
2016-2017 Co-ordinator of fortnightly Marine Biology and Ecology Research Centre (MBERC) departmental seminars

2013 Biosciences School Commendation for Outstanding Research Project (MSc Evolutionary and Behavioural Ecology 2011/12)

Professional membership

Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour (ASAB)

Roles on external bodies

2019-present Biology Letters editorial board member 

2017-present Member of the British Ecological Society (BES) Review College



Research interests

I am a behavioural ecologist interested in different forms of conflict resulting from sexual and natural selection, including sexual conflict and contest behaviour. Conflict has huge evolutionary significance as it determines the unequal division of resources vital for reproduction and survival, yet there is still much we don't understand about agonistic interactions. My current research focusses largely on understanding how individuals make strategic decisions to maximise the benefits gained from engaging in a fight while minimising the costs incurred. I am particularly interested in the use of weapons and how the costs of conflict (especially injury) influence strategic decisions.

I am currently in the process of making the transition between being a Post-Doc and setting up a research group of my own. If you're interested in my work and would like to chat about conducting a Masters project or PhD with me, please feel free to contact me via email.

Creative practice & artistic projects


May 2021 ‘Rockpool Fight Club’ – Soapbox Science Plymouth (online talk and Q&A session)

October 2018 ‘The fighting life of sea anemones’ - Talk to public at Wembury Marine Centre, Wembury, UK.

October 2018 ‘Sea an-enemies’ – Filmed segment for BBC1 The One Show

May 2018 'Fighting like an animal doesn't always mean a duel to the death' - Science News magazine

July 2017: A short monologue pitching sea anemones as the 'critter of the week' for The Naked Scientists' marine month, you can listen to it here: - Critter of the Week: Sea Anemones




Lane, S. M., & Briffa, M. 2023 The effect of performance capacity and decision-making speed on skilful fightingAnimal Behaviour. 199: 95-102.

Collins, S. A., Lane, S. M., Minako, I., Hamston, T. 2023 Nest material preferences in wild hazel dormice Muscardinus avellanarius: testing predictions from optimal foraging theoryBehavioural Ecology.

Lane, S. M., Cornwell, T. O., Briffa, M. 2022 The angle of attack: Rapping technique predicts skill in hermit crab contests. Animal Behaviour. 187: 55-61.

Hawkes, M. F.*, Lane S. M.*, Rapkin, J., Jensen, K., House, C. M., Sakaluk, S. K., Hunt, J. In Press Intralocus sexual conflict over optimal nutrient intake and the evolution of sex differences in lifespan and reproductionFunctional Ecology. 36: 865-881.

* Joint first authors that contributed equally to this manuscript.
Lane, S. M. & Briffa, M. In Press Skilful mating? Insights from animal contest research. Animal Behaviour.

Nanninga, G. B., Horswill, C., Lane, S. M., Manica, A., Briffa, M. 2020 Microplastic exposure increases predictability of predator avoidance strategies in hermit crabs. Journal of Hazardous Materials Letters. 1: 100005. 

Lane, S. M., Briffa, M., Wilson A. J., Truebano, M., Foster, N. L. 2020. Evidence of fostering in an internally brooding sea anemone. Ethology

Lane, S. M & Briffa, M. 2020 The role of spatial accuracy and precision in hermit crab contests. Animal Behaviour. 167: 111-118.

Briffa, M., Lane, S. M., Chapin, K.J., Peixoto, P.E.C. 2020 Using ternary plots to investigate continuous variation in animal contest strategies. Animal Behaviour. 167: 85-99.

Lane, S. M., Wilson, A. J., Briffa, M. 2020 Analysis of direct and indirect genetic effects in fighting sea anemones. Behavioural Ecology. 31: 540-547.

Lane, S. M. & Briffa, M. 2018 How does the environment affect fighting? The interaction between extrinsic fighting ability and resource value during contests. Journal of Experimental Biology. 221: jeb.187740

Lane, S. M. 2018 What is a weapon? Integrative and Comparative Biology. icy083

Lane, S. M., & Briffa, M. 2018 Immune function and the decision to deploy weapons during fights in the beadlet anemone Actinia equina. Journal of Experimental Biology. 221: jeb169201

Briffa, M., & Lane, S. M. 2017 The role of skill in animal contests: A neglected component of fighting ability. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 284: 20171596.

Lane, S. M., & Briffa, M. 2017 Boldness is for rookies: Pre-fight boldness and fighting success in a sea anemone. Animal Behaviour. 132: 13-20.

Lane, S. M., & Briffa, M. 2017 The price of attack: Rethinking damage costs in animal contests. Animal Behaviour. 126: 23-29.

Lane, S. M., Dickinson, A. W., Tregenza, T., House, C. M. 2016 Sexual selection on male cuticular hydrocarbons via male-male competition and female choice. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 29: 1346-1355.

Lane, S. M., Haughan, A. E., Evans, D., Tregenza, T., House, C. M. 2016 Same-sex sexual behaviour as a dominance display. Animal Behaviour. 114: 113-118.

Rapkin, J., Jensen, K., Lane, S. M., House, C. M., Sakaluk, S. K., Hunt, J. 2015 Macronutrient intake regulates sexual conflict in decorated crickets. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 29(2): 395-406.

House, C. M., Jensen, K., Rapkin, J., Lane, S. M., Okada, K., Hosken, D. J., Hunt, J. 2015 Macronutrient balance mediates the growth of sexually selected weapons but not genitalia in male broad horned flour beetles. Functional Ecology. 30(5):769-779.

Lane, S. M., Solino, J. H., Mitchell, C., Blount, J. D., Okada, K., Hunt, J., House C. M. 2015 Rival male chemical cues evoke changes in male pre- and post-copulatory investment in a flour beetle. Behavioural Ecology. 26(4):1021-1029.

Ingleby, F. C., Hosken, D. J., Flowers, K., Hawkes, M. F., Lane, S. M., Rapkin, J., House, C. M., Sharma, M. D., Hunt, J. 2014 Environmental heterogeneity, multivariate sexual selection, and genetic constraints on cuticular hydrocarbons in Drosophila simulans. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 27(4): 700-713.

Ingleby, F. C., Hosken, D. J., Flowers, K., Hawkes, M. F., Lane, S. M., Rapkin, J., Dworkin, I., Hunt, J. 2013 Genotype by environment interactions for cuticular hydrocarbon expression in Drosophila simulans. Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 26: 94-107.


Briffa, M. & Lane, S. M. 2018 Signals in conflict resolution: Conventional signals, aggression and territoriality. In Breed, M. D. & Moore, J (Eds) Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior (2nd ed.) Elsevier.



Reports & invited lectures

Invited talks

August 2021: Plenary ECR talk at ASAB Summer virtual meeting 2021. ‘The role of skill in animal contests: Insights from hermit crab fights’

October 2019 University of Exeter, UK. ‘Animal contests: Insights into injury and skill’

January 2019 Universität Bielefeld, Germany. ‘Sea anemone contests: Drivers and constraints’

January 2019 Coastwise North Devon, Barnstaple, UK. ‘The fighting life of sea anemones’

March 2018 Queen’s University Belfast. ‘Costs and determinants of weapon use in animal contests’

March 2018 Plymouth University. ‘Costs and determinants of weapon use in animal contests’

February 2017 University of Exeter. ‘From BSc Zoology to researching anemones’

Guest lectures

May 2018 Guest lecturer on third year Behavioural Ecology module, Plymouth University, UK.

March 2017 Guest lecturer on third year Behavioural Ecology module, Plymouth University, UK.

Conferences organised

August 2018 Joint organiser of ‘Broader perspectives on animal contests’ held at Queen’s University Belfast.

Other academic activities

Conference talks

2021 ASAB Easter virtual meeting 2021. Talk: ‘Technique during “training” predicts skill in real fights'

2018 ASAB Easter conference 2018, University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK. Talk: ‘Extrinsic determinants of contest dynamics in a sea anemone’

2017 Behaviour 2017, Estoril, Portugal. Oral presentation: 'Immune function as a cause and consequence of weapon use'

2017 Contests: Theory and Evidence, Norwich, UK. Oral presentation: 'The price of attack: Rethinking damage costs in animal contests'

2016 16th Congress of the International Society for Behavioural Ecology, Exeter, UK. Oral presentation: 'Can post-fight changes in boldness explain subsequent fighting success?'

2015 52nd Annual conference of the Animal Behaviour Society, Anchorage, Alaska, USA. Oral presentation: 'Male flour beetles alter both pre and post-copulatory investment in response to rival Male chemical cues'

2014 10th Ecology and Behaviour meeting, Montpellier, France. Oral presentation: 'Perception of sperm competition risk is altered by the presence of male-derivedcuticular hydrocarbons in the broad-horned flour beetle Gnatocerus cornutus'

Reviewer for: -

Acta Ethologica
Animal Behaviour
Behavioural Processes
Biological Invasions
Journal of Herpetology
Marine and Freshwater Research
Physiological Entomology


Personal webpage: https://sarahlanebehaviour.wordpress.com/

ResearchGate profile: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Sarah_Lane3