Kara Yopak

Dr, BA Boston, PhD Auck.

  • The University of Western Australia (M085), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Crawley


  • 203 Citations
  • 9 h-Index
If you made any changes in Pure these will be visible here soon.

Personal profile


I'm an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the University of Western Australia and an Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, where my lab is based. My research focuses on the evolution of neural systems, particularly how brains have diversified within some of the earliest vertebrate groups, namely sharks, skates, rays, and chimaerids (the cartilaginous fishes). My lab focuses on comparative neuroanatomy within this clade and how the development of major brain areas between species in conjunction with the adaptive evolution of their sensory and motor systems. Our data suggest that brain organization and the relative development of major brain structures reflect an animal’s ecology and a range of life history characteristics, a pattern similarly documented in other vertebrate groups.  

We utilize a variety of traditional and novel techniques to explore questions related to brain evolution of sharks and their relatives, including histology and immunohistochemistry, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and flow cytometry. As a perfect ‘bioindicator,’ variation in brain development can allow us to make predictions about sensory and behavioral specialization across species, highlight transitions in life-history stages within a single species, and predict the fitness consequences of anthropogenic disturbances and environmental change. These data pave the way for predicting cognitive function and/or more complex behavioral repertoires in fishes, with implications for how “intelligence” has evolved across vertebrates.

Want to know more? Feel free to check out our lab website: http://yopaklab.com

Roles and responsibilities


Victoria Camilieri-Asch
Lucille Chapuis
Carlos Salas
Christopher Mull

Matthew Fraser-grant
Sian Coggin

Funding overview

2003-2006: Kara E. Yopak, ‘Brain Organisation in Chondrichthyans: Ecological Correlations and Functional Implications”, University of Auckland International Doctoral Fees Scholarship

2011: Kara E. Yopak, ‘Comparative Neurobiology of Sharks, Skates, and Rays’, Sir Keith Murdoch Fellowship, American Australian Association

2011-2012: SP Collin, RG Northcutt, KE Yopak Shaw, K Heel, 'Developing Quantitative Measures of Brain Evolution in Early Vertebrates', UWA Research Collaboration Awards

2012 - 2014: SP Collin, NS Hart, E Garza-Gisholt, KE Yopak. Vision and Light Detection in Chondrichthyans. Sea World Research and Rescue Foundation Inc.

2012 - 2013: KE Yopak, SP Colin. 'In Search of a Magnetoreceptor in the Shark CNS'. National Imaging Facility (NIF), University of Queensland. NIF Subsidised Access Grant.

2013: KE Yopak, SP Collin, G Cowin, J Ullmann, J Anderson. In Search of a Magnetoreceptor in the Shark CNS. UWA-UQ Bilateral Research Collaboration Award, University of Western Australia

2014: KE Yopak, SP Collin. UWA Professional Development Award. Aspire Program, Perth Convention Bureau

2015: SP Collin, KE Yopak, AN Iwaniuk, DR Wylie, K Heel. Anatomical proxies for cognitive abilities in vertebrates. University of Western Australia, School of Animal Biology. UWA Research Collaboration Award. $15,000

Teaching overview



Cartilaginous fish (shark, skates, rays, & holocephalans) behavior, ecology, sensory biology, neuroethology, comparative brain morphology, neuroanatomy, allometry

External positions

Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Wilmington

1 Jan 2017 → …


  • Comparative neuroanatomy
  • Sensory biology
  • Cartilaginous fishes
  • Marine ecology
  • Phylogenetic comparative analyses

Fingerprint Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the person's scientific documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.

  • 10 Similar Profiles
Lampreys Medicine & Life Sciences
Vertebrates Medicine & Life Sciences
sharks Agriculture & Biology
Fishes Medicine & Life Sciences
Brain Medicine & Life Sciences
Sharks Medicine & Life Sciences
Olfactory Bulb Medicine & Life Sciences
Hagfishes Medicine & Life Sciences

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2012 2016

Research Output 2009 2018

Effects of auditory and visual stimuli on shark feeding behaviour: the disco effect

Ryan, L. A., Chapuis, L., Hemmi, J. M., Collin, S. P., McCauley, R. D., Yopak, K. E., Gennari, E., Huveneers, C., Kempster, R. M., Kerr, C. C., Schmidt, C., Egeberg, C. A. & Hart, N. S. 1 Jan 2018 In : Marine Biology. 165, 1, 11

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

visual cue
Carcharodon carcharias
feeding behavior
2 Citations
Olfactory Bulb

Structure and function of regional specializations in the vertebrate retina

Moore, B. A., Tyrell, L. P., Kamilar, J. M., Collin, S., Dominy, N. J., Hall, M. I., Heesy, C. P., Lisney, T. J., Loew, E. R., Moritz, G. L., Nava, S. S., Warrant, E., Shaw, K. & Fernandez-Juricic, E. 2017 Evolution of nervous systems: The evolution of the nervous systems in nonmammalian vertebrates. Kaas, J. H. & Striedter, G. (eds.). 2nd ed. Oxford, UK: Academic Press, Vol. 1, p. 351–372

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)


The Central Nervous System of Jawless Vertebrates: Encephalization in Lampreys and Hagfishes

Salas, C. A., Yopak, K. E., Lisney, T. J., Potter, I. C. & Collin, S. P. 1 Mar 2017 In : Brain, Behavior and Evolution. 89, 1, p. 33-47

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Central Nervous System
2 Citations

How Close is too Close? The Effect of a Non-Lethal Electric Shark Deterrent on White Shark Behaviour

Kempster, R. M., Egeberg, C. A., Hart, N. S., Ryan, L., Chapuis, L., Kerr, C. C., Schmidt, C., Huveneers, C., Gennari, E., Yopak, K. E., Meeuwig, J. J. & Collin, S. P. 1 Jul 2016 In : PLoS One. 11, 7, 20 p., 0157717

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Open Access