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Dr Kate Sanders

Telephone +61 8 8313 3997
Position ARC Future Fellow
Fax +61 8 8313 4364
Building Darling Building
Floor/Room 2 12b
Campus North Terrace
Org Unit Ecology and Environmental Science

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B.Sc. (Honours) Zoology, 1999. The University of Aberdeen, U.K. Thesis title: ‘Resource partitioning in a community of South Indian Amphibians’. 

Ph.D. The University of Wales – Bangor, U.K. 2003. Thesis title: "Cryptic Speciation and Biogeography in Indomalayan pitvipers (Trimeresurus)". 


1996: Volunteer - Natal Crocodile Farm, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

1997: Reptile and bird diversity surveys for the Campfire Association, Zimbabwe

1998: TealeadeUniversity of Aberdeen Expedition to the Western Ghats, India’

2000, 2001, 2002, 2003: 8 months doctoral sample collection in Thailand,IndonesiaPhilippines.

2004-2011: 22 months reptile collection in Central Thailand, West Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Indonesia (JavaSumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku Utara).

2012-2014: 3 months sea snake survey and sample collection in West Papua and NW Australia.

Teaching Interests

Undergraduate courses

EVOLUTION AND PALAEOBIOLOGY III; Course co-coordination, lecturing, designing and running practicals, exam and assay assessment (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014).

ISSUES IN EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY III: Course co-coordination, project supervision, report and presentation assessment (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).

Student supervision

Ph.D. Kanishka Ukuwela (International student, University of Adelaide: Systematics, diversity and conservation of Indian Ocean sea snakes). Principal Supervisor. 

Masters. Amy Watson (University of Adelaide: Virtual evolution of a biomimetic sea snake robot). Co-supervisor. 

Honours. Amy Watson (University of Adelaide: Exploring sea snake skulls in 3D: evidence of an adaptive radiation?). Principal Supervisor. 

Honours. Jenna Crowe-Riddell (University of Adelaide: Scale sensillae: Mechanoreceptor evolution in marine and terrestrial snakes: Elapidae). Principal Supervisor. 


Research Interests

Kate's research group focuses primarily on trait evolution and speciation in squamate reptiles. Current projects involve: 1) phylogenetic and population genomic approaches to understanding the biogeographic origins of sea snake diversity in the Indo-Australian marine biodiversity hotspot; 2) reconstructing morphological evolution in sea snakes, especially the remarkably frequent origin of ‘microcephalic’ burrowing-prey specialists and possible role in promoting reproductive isolation and rapid species diversification; 3) the evolution of sensory systems in the transition to aquatic habitats in snakes, including transcriptomic studies of tail (skin) photoreception and vomeronasal gene family evolution. Kate’s research has a substantial fieldwork component focused primarily in Indonesia and Western Australia. This has led to the discovery of new species, and generated ecological and distributional data that have contributed to conservation assessments. She co-chairs the IUCN/SSC Sea Snake Specialist Group.

Research Funding

Investigating the genes and population histories that drive rapid adaptive change and speciation. Australian Research Council Future Fellowship (Level 1) 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016-17.

Biodiversity of critically endangered but poorly-known sea snakes in northwest Australia. Australian Biological Resources Study (ABRS), 2014, 2015, 2016.

Sea snake diversification: Why are certain taxa and regions species-rich. Australian Research Council Discovery Project with Mike Lee 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.

Investigating the impact of seismic surveys on threatened sea snakes in Australia's North West Shelf. Australia Pacific Science Foundation with Mick Guinea, 2012, 2013, 2014.




Sanders, K.L., Schroeder, T., Guinea, M.L., Rasmussen, A.R. 2014. Molecules and morphology reveal overlooked populations of two presumed extinct Australian sea snakes (Aipysurus: Hydrophiinae). PLOS ONE, in press.

Ukuwela, K.D.B., de  Silva, A., Fry, B.G., Sanders, K.L. 2014. Multilocus phylogeography of the sea snake Hydrophis curtus reveals historical vicariance and cryptic lineage diversity. Zoologica Scripta 43 (5): 472-484.

Rasmussen, A.R., Sanders, K.L., Guinea, M.L., Amey, A.P. 2014. Sea snakes in Australian waters (Serpentes: subfamilies Hydrophiinae and Laticaudinae)—a review with an updated identification key. Zootaxa 3869(4), 351-371.

Sanders, K.L., Rasmussen, A.R., Guinea, M.L. 2014. High rates of hybridisation reveal fragile reproductive barriers between endangered Australian sea snakes. Biological Conservation, 171: 200-208. 

Jackson, T., Sunagar, K., Undheim, E., Koludarov, I., Chan, A., Sanders, K.L., Ali, S., Hendrikx, I., Dunstan, N., Fry, B.G. 2013. Venom down under: Dynamic evolution of elapid snake toxins. Toxins, 5(12): 2621-2655.

Sanders, K.L., Rasmussen, A.R., Mumpuni, Elmberg, J., Silva, A., Guinea, M.L., Lee, M.S.Y.  2013. Recent rapid speciation and ecomorph divergence in Indo-Australian sea snakes. Molecular Ecology, 22(10): 2742-59.

Bohm, M. plus ~200 co-authors including Sanders, K.L. 2013. The conservation status of the world's reptiles. Biological Conservation, 157: 372-385.

Elfes, C. plus 24 co-authors including Sanders, K.L. 2013. Fascinating and forgotten. The conservation status of the world’s sea snakes. Herpetological Conservation and Biology, 8(1): 37-52. .

Sanders, K.L., Lee, M.S.Y., Mumpuni, Bertozzi, T. Rasmussen, A.R. 2013. Multilocus phylogeny and recent rapid radiation of the viviparous sea snakes (Elapidae: Hydrophiinae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 66(3): 575-91.

Kumar, B., George, S., Sanders, K.L., Murphy, J.C. 2012The status of Eurostus dussumierii and Hypsirhina chinensis Gray (Reptilia, Squamata, Serpentes) with Comments on the Origin of Salt Tolerance in Homalopsid Snakes. Systematics and Biodiversity, 10(4): 479-489.

Nijman, V., Shepherd, C.R., Mumpuni, Sanders, K.L. 2012. Overexploitation and illegal trade of reptiles in Indonesia. Herpetological Journal, 22: 83-89. 

Ukuwela, K.B.D, Silva, A., Mumpuni, Fry, B.G., Lee, M.S.Y. Sanders, K.L. 2012. Molecular evidence that the deadliest sea snake Enhydrina schistosa (Elapidae: Hydrophiinae) consists of two convergent species. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 66(1): 262-269. 

Sanders, K.L. Gardner, M.G. 2012. Isolation, via 454 sequencing, characterisation and transferability of twelve microsatellite loci for Hydrophis spiralis, the yellow sea snake (Serpentes: Elapidae). Conservation Genetics Resources, 4: 1101–1104.

Sanders, K.L., Rasmussen, A.R.R., Elmberg, J., Mumpuni, Guinea, M., Blias, P., Lee, M.S.Y. and Fry, B.G. 2012. Aipysurus mosaicus, a new species of egg-eating sea snake (Elapidae: Hydrophiinae), with a redescription of Aipysurus eydouxii. Zootaxa, 3431: 1–18.

Murphy, J.C., Mumpuni, de Lang, R., Gower, D.J. Sanders, K.L. 2012. The Moluccan short-tailed snakes of the genus Brachyorrhos Kuhl (Squamata: Serpentes: Homalopsidae), and the status of CalamophisMeyer. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 60(2): 501–514.

Sanders, K.L.Rasmussen, A.R.R., Elmberg, J. 2012. Independent innovation of paddle-shaped tails in viviparous sea snakes (Elapidae: Hydrophiinae). Integrative and Comparative Biology, 52(2): 311-20.

Rasmussen, A.R.R., Elmberg, J., Sanders, K.L., Gravlund, P. 2012. Rediscovery of the rare sea snake Hydrophis parviceps Smith 1935: identification and conservation status. Copeia, 2: 277–283.

Ukuwela, K.B.D., Sanders, K.L., Fry, B.G. 2012. Hydrophis donaldi(Hydrophiinae), a highly distinctive new species of sea snake from Australia. Zootaxa, 3201: 45–57.

Bertozzi, T., Sanders, K.L., Sistrom, M.J., Gardner, M.G. 2012. Anonymous nuclear loci in non-model organisms: making the most of high throughput genome surveys. Bioinformatics, 28 (14), 1807-1810.

Murphy, J.C, Mumpuni, Sanders, K.L. 2011. First molecular evidence for the phylogenetic placement of the enigmatic snake genus Brachyorrhos(Serpentes: Caenophidia). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 61(3): 953-7.

de Silva, A., Ukuwela, K, Sivaruban, A., Sanders, K.L. 2011. Preliminary observations on the reproductive biology of six species of Sri Lankan sea snakes (Elapidae: Hydrophiinae). Salamandra, 47(4): 193–198.

de Silva, A, Abyerami, S., Ukuwela, K.D.B., Rasmussen, A.R., Sanders, K.L. First record of a sea snake (Lapemis curtus) feeding on a Gastropod. Herpetology notes, 4: 373-375.

Hoffmann, M. plus 180 co-authors including Sanders, K.L. 2010. The Impact and Shortfall of Conservation on the Status of the World’s Vertebrates. Science, 330(6010): 1503-1509.       

de Silva, A., Freed, P., Rudge, J., Rasmussen, A.R.R., Sanders, K.L.2010. Some observations on the wart snake Acrochordus granulatus(Schneider, 1799) (Squamata: Serpentes) in Sri Lanka. Lyriocephalus Special issue 7(1 and 2): 203-206.

Sanders, K.L., Mumpuni, Lee, M.S.Y. 2010. Uncoupling ecological innovation and speciation in sea snakes (Elapidae, Hydrophiinae, Hydrophiini). Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 23: 2685–2693.

Sanders, K.L., Lee, M.S.Y. 2010. Arthropod molecular divergence times and the Cambrian origin of pentastomids. Systematics and Biodiversity, 8: 1, 63 -74. [Awarded Taylor and Francis Prize for the most outstanding paper published in Systematics and Biodiversity in 2010]

Sanders, K.L., Mumpuni, Hamidy, A., Head, J.J., Gower, D.J. 2010.Phylogeny and divergence times of filesnakes (Acrochordus): Inferences from morphology, fossils and three molecular loci. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 56: 857–867.

Oliver, P.M., Sanders, K.L.  2009. Molecular evidence for Gondwanan origins of multiple lineages within a diverse Australasian gecko radiation. Journal of Biogeography, 36: 2044–2055.

Sanders, K.L., Lee, M.S.Y, Leijs, R., Foster, R., Keogh, J.S. 2008. Phylogenetic relationships and divergence times of Australasian and marine elapid snakes (Hydrophiinae): mitochondrial and nuclear evidence. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 21: 682–695.   [Awarded the Joseph B. Slowinski Award for Excellence in Snake Systematics for most outstanding snake systematics paper published in 2008]

Sanders, K.L., Lee, M.S.Y. 2008. Molecular evidence for a rapid late-Miocene radiation of Australasian venomous snakes (Elapidae, Colubroidea). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 46(3): 1165-73.

Sanders, K.L., Lee, M.S.Y. 2007. Evaluating calibration dates within reptiles using molecular data and Bayesian analyses with soft bounded priors. Biology Letters, 3(3): 275-279.

Grismer, L.L., Youmans, T.M., Wood, P.L., Ponce, A.., Wright, S.B., Jones, B.S., Johnson, R. Gower, D.J., Sanders, K.L., Yaakob, N.S. 2006. Checklist of the herpetofauna of Langkawi with taxonomic comments. Hamadryad, 30: 61-74.

Sanders, K.L., Malhotra, A., Thorpe, R.S. 2006. Molecular phylogenetic evidence for a Müllerian mimetic radiation in Asian green pitvipers. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B., 273: 1135-1141.

Sanders, K.L., Malhotra, A., Thorpe, R.S. 2006. Combining molecular, morphological and ecological data to infer species boundaries in a cryptic tropical pitviper. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 87: 343-364.

Sanders, K.L., Malhotra, A., Gumprecht, A., Thorpe, R.S., Kuch, U. 2004. A new species of pitviper of the genus Trimeresurus from West Malaysia (Squamata: Viperidae). Russian Journal of Herpetology, 11:171-184.

Sanders, K.L., Malhotra, A., Thorpe, R.S. 2003. Ecological diversification in a group of Indomalayan pitvipers (Trimeresurus): convergence in taxonomically important traits has implications for species identification. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 17(4):721-7314.

Sanders, K.L., Malhotra, A., Thorpe, R.S. 2002. A contribution to the systematics of two commonly confused pitviper species from the Sunda region: Trimeresurus hageni and T. sumatranus. Bulletin of the Natural History Museum of London (Zoology), 68(2):107-111.

Sanders, K.L. 2000. Habitat use by amphibians around water bodies at Luckunda Estate. Pages 31 - 61 In Bennett, D., ed. Frogs of Coorg, Southern Karnataka, India. Viper Press, UK. (Book chapter).



Entry last updated: Thursday, 21 Jul 2016

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