Matilda Brindle

Matilda Brindle

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Matilda Brindle

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Start Year

2016 (Cohort 3)

Research interests:
Hobbies and interests:

PhD Project
PhD Title

Auto-Sexual Behaviours in Primates: Evolution and Functions

Research Theme

Evolution and Adaptation

Primary Supervisor
Primary Institution


Secondary Supervisor
Secondary Institution



The most common sexual behaviour in female and male primates – including humans – is masturbation. However, the evolutionary significance of auto-sexual activities has not been comprehensively studied. This project will compile and categorise the, as yet, scattered information about its distribution and forms across hundreds of species, from lemurs, lorises and tarsiers to monkeys and apes, aiming to develop testable hypotheses about potential mechanisms and functions. Bayesian phylogenetic analyses will reconstruct the evolutionary history of auto-sexual behaviours. The data will also be examined for trends between and within species as well as for relationships with socio-ecological variables, such as life-style, pathogen load or mating systems. The theoretical work will be complemented by fieldwork on macaque monkeys and experiments with human volunteers, aiming to better understand how masturbation influences the composition and quantity of ejaculate as well as the quality of spermatozoa. Finally, we aim to explore the physiological changes within the vagina of human female subjects during arousal and orgasm by use of a novel data logging device. Thus, this project has health-related implications that go beyond its primary aim, i.e., to better understand the evolution, mechanisms and functions of primate auto-sexual behaviour.

Policy Impact
Background Reading
Grants and awards
  • Leakey Foundation Research Grant – Leakey Foundation


Conferences and Workshops
  • PSGB Spring Meeting (April 2017).

The Brilliant Club, supervised by Steph Hamilton. 01/04/2019 – 30/06/2019.

DTP Activities

Social Links
University Departmental Website:
Personal Website:




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