Mike Kelly, PhD

My research focuses on the evolution of sleep across the animal kingdom. I use behavioural, metabolic, and neurophysiological recordings to investigate how ecological factors, such as predation pressure, have shaped sleep over evolutionary time. This research also involves investigating sleep in aquatic apex predators, which are some of the oldest, extant, jawed vertebrates.

I completed a B.S.B at La Trobe University (Australia) in 2013 where I majored in zoology and botany. I then joined the Sleep Ecophysiology Group at La Trobe in 2014 to complete an Honours project where I described the presence of unilateral eye closure (a correlate of unihemispheric sleep in birds and marine mammals) for the first time in saltwater crocodiles. Upon completing my Honours year, I undertook a PhD at The University of Western Australia (Australia) under the supervision of Professor Shaun Collin and Dr Jan Hemmi. My PhD focused on describing (for the first time) sleep in multiple species of sharks and included an 18-month residency at The University of Auckland’s Leigh Marine Laboratory (New Zealand) where I worked closely with Dr Craig Radford. Throughout my PhD, I described activity-based circadian rhythms and behavioural evidence of sleep in multiple species of sharks. A collaboration with Dr Paul-Antoine Libourel (CNRS – France) and Dr John Lesku also resulted in the first EEG recordings of untethered, free-swimming sharks. In 2020, following the completion of my PhD, I returned to the Sleep Ecophysiology Group for a 1-year postdoctoral appointment where I continued my work on sleep in sharks and provided the first physiological evidence of sleep in this taxon. In 2021, I was offered a Smithsonian Postdoctoral Award (USA), but decided instead to accept a postdoctoral position at Simon Fraser University (Canada) in Professor Ralph Mistlberger’s circadian rhythm and sleep lab. My current project focuses on the evolutionary effects of predation pressure on sleep using common garden experiments on multiple, wild rat populations with varying predation-pressure histories. This project is a collaboration between Simon Fraser University (Canada) and CNRS (France). I also work with Dr Breanne Kent (Simon Fraser) on a project involving sleep and acquired brain injuries in mice and am a continuing, honorary member of the Sleep Ecophysiology Group.


Kelly ML*, Collins SP*, Lesku JA, Hemmi JM, Collin SP and Radford CA. Under review. Energy conservation characterises sleep in sharks. (*authors contributed equally)

Spreitzenbarth S, Kelly ML and Jeffs A. 2021. Insights into first feeding of newly-hatched paralarvae of the merobenthic octopus, Octopus tetricus. Aquaculture 532, 736049.

Kelly ML, Spreitzenbarth S, Kerr CC, Hemmi JM, Lesku JA, Radford CA and Collin SP. 2021. Behavioural sleep in two species of buccal pumping sharks (Heterodontus portusjacksoni and Cephaloscyllium isabellum). Journal of Sleep Research 30, e13139.

Kelly ML, Murray ERP, Kerr CC, Radford CA, Collin SP, Lesku JA* and Hemmi JM. 2020. Diverse activity rhythms in sharks (Elasmobranchii). Journal of Biological Rhythms 35, 476-488. (authors contributed equally)

Kelly ML, Collin SP, Hemmi JM and Lesku JA. 2019. Evidence for sleep in sharks and rays: behavioural, physiological, and evolutionary considerations. Brain, Behavior and Evolution 94, 37-50.

Lesku JA, Aulsebrook AE, Kelly ML and Tisdale RK. 2019. Evolution of sleep and adaptive sleeplessness. In: Dringenberg HC (ed.), Handbook of Sleep Research, volume 30. London: Academic Press, 299-316.

Kelly ML, Peters RA, Tisdale RK and Lesku JA. 2015. Unihemispheric sleep in crocodilians? The Journal of Experimental Biology 218, 3175-3178.