Jacob Russell, PhD

Assistant Professor, Department of Biodiversity, Earth & Environmental Science

Jacob A. Russell , Ph.D

Office: PISB 325
Phone: 215.895.1643
Lab: PISB 310 B1
Lab Phone: 215.895.4978
Website: Russell Lab


Molecular Ecology


  • BS, Molecular Genetics, University of Rochester, 1999. Advisors: John Jaenike & Wolfgang Stephan.
  • PhD, Ecology and Evolution, University of Arizona, 2004. Advisor: Nancy Moran.
  • NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, 2005-2006. Advisor: Naomi Pierce.
  • Green Memorial Fund Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard University, 2006-2007. Advisor: Naomi Pierce.

Research Interests

  • The nutritional roles of gut bacteria in the evolution of herbivory across the ants.
  • Distributions, evolution, and specificity of heritable bacterial symbionts across the insects.
  • Variation and significance of defensive bacteria in natural aphid populations.
  • The roles of gut bacteria in the digestive physiology of Trinidadian guppies and the effects of guppy diet in shaping bacterial gut communities.

Symbiotic bacteria are ubiquitous associates of animals, playing integral roles in their nutrition, digestion, and defense. Many of these interactions are ancient and highly specialized, having enabled the colonization of previously inhospitable niches and the subsequent diversification of their animal hosts. Through a combination of molecular, phylogenetic, and experimental techniques (both lab- and field-based), my research focuses on the functional significance and evolutionary histories of symbioses between animals and bacteria.

Current Federal Funding:

NSF, IOS—Symbiosis, Defense, and Self-Recognition. “Collaborative Research: Factors shaping the maintenance of variation in a symbiont-mediated host-enemy interaction.” $394,119. 2011-2014. (With PI Kerry Oliver from the University of Georgia)

NSF, DEB—Population and Community Ecology. “Collaborative Research: Inferring bacterial roles in the evolution of trophic level across the ants.” $450,00. 2011-2014. (With PI Corrie Moreau from the Field Museum of Natural History)

Selected Publications

  • Russell JA (2011) The ants are unique and enigmatic hosts of prevalent Wolbachia symbionts. Myrmecological News: manuscript accepted.
  • Funaro CF, Kronauer DJC, Moreau CS, Goldman-Huertas B, Pierce NE, Russell JA. (2011) Army ants harbor a host-specific clade of Entomoplasmatales bacteria. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 77: 346-350.
  • Russell JA, Moreau C, Goldman-Huertas B, Fujiwara M, Lohman D, Pierce NE. (2009) Bacterial gut symbionts are tightly linked with the evolution of herbivory in ants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 106: 21236-21241.
  • Russell JA, Goldman-Huertas B, Moreau CS, Baldo, L, Stahlhut JK, Werren JH, Pierce NE (2009) Specialization and geographic isolation among Wolbachia symbionts from ants and lycaenid butterflies. Evolution 63: 624-640.
  • Russell JA, Moran NA (2006) Costs and benefits of symbiont infection in aphids: variation among symbionts and across temperatures. Proceedings of the Royal Society B – Biology 273: 603-610.
  • Russell JA, Moran NA (2005) Horizontal transfer of bacterial symbionts: heritability and fitness effects in a novel aphid host. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 71: 7987-7994.
  • Oliver KM, Russell JA, Moran NA, Hunter MS (2003) Facultative bacterial symbionts in aphids confer resistance to parasitic wasps. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 100: 1803-1807.
  • Russell JA, Latorre AL, Sabater-Muñoz B, Moya A, Moran NA (2003) Side-stepping secondary symbionts: Widespread horizontal transfer across and beyond the Aphidoidea. Molecular Ecology 12: 1061-1075.