Skip to Content

Department of Biological Sciences

Our laboratory studies how marine animals cope with environmental stressors like pollution, temperature and salinity fluctuations, competition and infection. We're showing that marine invertebrates have novel systems to maintain homeostasis in the face of environmental stress, and that these systems can be exploited to provide innovative solutions to problems in aquaculture, fisheries and environmental management. The main focus of our research is the relationship between infectious disease and the immune system.


We offer research projects to new students in areas ranging from environmental biology to proteomics and genomics, working with a variety of organisms including oysters, sea urchins, polychaete worms, ascidians and abalone.

For more information contact David Raftos at


Currently we are studying:

  • disease outbreaks among Sydney rock oyster
  • hypervariable defensive protein in sea urchins
  • new forms of antibiotics from marine invertebrates and bacteria

Our interest in highly variable gene systems has also led us to investigate:

  • population structure and biodiversity of asicidans in marine national parks
  • the control of reproduction in marine worms.

In the future, we want to use our expertise in cutting edge techniques like proteomics to identify genes that respond to changes in the marine environment, and to exploit those genes in targeted approaches for environment management.

We work at two facilities in Sydney ...our main laboratory on the Macquarie University campus and the Sydney Harbour Institute of Marine Science (SHIMS) on the shore of Sydney Harbour at Chowder Bay .

The marine biology laboratory
Part of the sea water facility
Lab crew at SHIMS


Our People



Bezemer, B., Butt, D., Nell, J., Adlard, R., Raftos, D.A., 2006. Breeding for QX disease resistance negatively selects one form of the defensive enzyme, phenoloxidase, in Sydney rock oysters. Fish & Shellfish Immunology 20: 627-636.

Green, P., Luty, A., Nair, S., Radford, J., Raftos, D.A., 2006. A second form of collagenous lectin from the tunicate, Styela plicata . Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology , In press.

Butt, D., Shaddick, K., Raftos, D.A., 2005. The effect of low salinity on phenoloxidase activity in the Sydney rock oyster, Saccostrea glomerata . Aquaculture, In press.

Nair, S., Del Valle, H., Gross, P.S., Terwilliger, D.P., Smith, C.I., 2005. Macroarray analysis of coelomocyte gene expression in response to LPS in the sea urchin. Identification of unexpected immune diversity in an invertebrate. Physiol Genomics 22: 33–47.

Nair SV, Ramsden A, & Raftos DA. 2005 Ancient origins: Complement in invertebrates. Invertebrate Survival Journal 2: 114-123.

Clow, L.A. , Raftos, D.A.,Gross, P.S., Smith, C.I., 2004. The sea urchin complement homologue, SpC3, functions as an opsonin. The Journal of Experimental Biology 207: 2147-2155

Newton , K., Peters, R., Raftos, D.A., 2004. Phenoloxidase and QX disease resistance in Sydney rock oysters ( Saccostrea glomerata ). Developmental and Comparative Immunology 28: 565–569.

Raftos, D.A., Fabbro, M., Nair, S., 2004. Exocytosis of a complement component C3-like protein by tunicate hemocytes. Developmental and Comparative Immunology 28: 181–190.

Green, P., Nair, S., Raftos, D.A., 2003. Secretion of a collection-like protein in tunicates is enhanced during inflammatory responses. Developmental and Comparative Immunology 27: 3–9.

Peters, R., Raftos, D.A., 2003. The role of phenoloxidase suppression in QX disease outbreaks among Sydney rock oysters ( Saccostrea glomerata ). Aquaculture 223: 29–39.

Nair SV, Burandt M, Hutchinson AE, Raison RL and Raftos DA. 2001. A C-type lectin from the tunicate, Styela plicata , that modulates cellular activity. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology C 129: 11-24.

Tujula, N., Radford, J., Nair, S., Raftos, D.A., 2001. Effects of tributyltin and other metals on the phenoloxidase activating system of the tunicate, Styela plicata . Aquatic Toxicology 55: 191–201.

Nair SV, Pearce S, Green PL , Mahajan D, Newton RA and Raftos DA. 2000. A collectin-like protein from tunicates. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology B. 125: 279-289.

Radford, J.L., Hutchinson , A.E., Burandt, M., Raftos, D.A., 2000. Effects of Metal-Based Environmental Pollutants on Tunicate Hemocytes. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 76: 242–248.

Raftos, D.A., Hutchinson , A.E., 1997. Effects of Common Estuarine Pollutants on the Immune Reactions of Tunicates. Biol Bull. 192: 62-72.


[Back to top]