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Jacob Russell

Jacob Russell, PhD

Department of Biology
Department of Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Science
Office: PISB 325
Phone: 215.895.1643
Lab Location: PISB 310 B1
Lab Phone: 215.895.4978
Additional Sites: Russell Lab


  • 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)

Curriculum Vitae:

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Research Interests:

  • Roles of bacterial symbionts in ant evolution
  • Function, stability, and dynamics of heritable symbiont communities in aphids
  • Genomic mechanisms driving correlations between symbiosis and insect ecology
  • Coevolutionary histories between insects and their microbes

Symbiosis is a defining feature of eukaryotic biology. Animals are no exception, exhibiting nearly ubiquitous relationships with bacterial symbionts that shape 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, bioinformatic, phylogenetic, and experimental techniques, my lab’s research investigates the functional significance and evolutionary histories of symbioses between animals and bacteria. Our lab- and field-based studies focus on two research systems, aphids and ants, enabling explorations of symbiont-mediated adaptation across recent to ancient timescales. Our findings suggest the potential for defensive symbionts to drive rapid adaptation in aphid populations and the impacts of nutritional symbionts on the success of several diverse lineages of herbivorous ants.

Current Federal Funding

NSF, Integrative and Organismal Biology, Award #1754597. "Collaborative Research: Competition and cooperation in the defensive symbiont communities of aphids.” 2018-2022. (role: PI; with PI Kerry Oliver, Associate Professor, Department of Entomology, University of Georgia)

NSF, Dimensions of Biodiversity, Award #1442144 “Dimensions: Identifying how the ecological and evolutionary interactions between host and symbiont shape holobiont biodiversity.” 2015-2020. (PI, along with: PI Corrie Moreau, Assistant Curator of Entomology, Field Museum of Natural History; PI John Wertz, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, Calvin College; PI Scott Powell, Assistant Professor, Department of Biology, George Washington University).

Selected Publications:

  • Parfrey LW, Moreau CS, Russell JA. (2018) Introduction – The host-associated microbiome: Pattern, process, and function. Molecular Ecology 27: 1749–1765.
  • Hu Y*, Sanders J*, Łukasik P, D’Amelio CL, Millar JS, Vann DR, Lan Y, Newton JA, Schotanus, Kronauer DJC, Pierce NE, Moreau CS, Wertz J, Engel P, Russell JA. (2018) Herbivorous turtle ants obtain essential nutrients from a conserved nitrogen-recycling gut microbiome. Nature Communications 9: 964. *These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • Rock DI*, Smith AH*, Joffe J, Albertus A, Wong N, O’Connor M, Oliver K, Russell JA (2018) Context-dependent vertical transmission shapes strong symbiont community structure in the pea aphid, Acyrthosiphon pisum. Molecular Ecology 27: 2039-2056. *These authors contributed equally to this work.
  • Łukasik P, Newton JA, Sanders JG, Hu Y, Moreau CS, Kronauer DJC, O’Donnell S, Koga R, Russell JA (2017) The structured diversity of specialized gut symbionts of the New World army ants. Molecular Ecology 26: 3808-3825.
  • Russell JA, Oliver KM, Hansen AK (2017) Band-aids for Buchnera and B vitamins for all. Molecular Ecology 26: 2199-2203. (invited perspective article)
  • Hu Y, Holway DA, Łukasik P, Chau L, Kay AD, LeBrun EG, Miller KA, Sanders JG, Suarez AV, Russell JA (2017) By their own devices: invasive Argentine ants have shifted diet without clear aid from symbiotic microbes. Molecular Ecology 26: 1608-1630.
  • Russell JA, Sanders JG, Moreau CM (2017) Hotspots for symbiosis: Function, evolution, and specificity of ant-microbe associations from trunk to tips of the ant phylogeny (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Myrmecological News 24: 43-69. (invited review)
  • Oliver KM, Russell JA (2016) Introduction to symbiosis. In: Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology, vol. 4: 282-290. Edited by Kliman RM, Oxford Academic Press.
  • Smith AH, Łukasik P, O’Connor MP, Lee A, Mayo G, Drott MT, Doll S, Tuttle R, DiSciullo RA, Messina A, Oliver KM, Russell JA (2015) Patterns, causes, and consequences of defensive microbiome dynamics across multiple scales. Molecular Ecology: accepted.
  • Sullam KE, Rubin BER, Dalton CM, Kilham SS, Flecker AS, Russell JA (2015) Divergence across diet, time, and populations rules out parallel evolution in the gut microbiomes of Trinidadian guppies. ISME Journal doi:10.1038/ismej.2014.231.
  • Russell JA, Hu Y, Chau L, Pauliushchyk M, Anastopoulos I, Anandan A, Waring MS. (2014) Indoor biofilter growth and exposure to airborne chemicals drive similar changes in the bacterial communities of plant roots. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 80: 4805-4813.
  • Russell JA, Dubilier N, Rudgers JA (2014) Nature’s microbiome: introduction. Molecular Ecology 23: 1225-1237.
  • Hu Y, Łukasik P, Moreau CS, Russell JA (2014) Correlates of gut community composition across an ant species (Cephalotes varians) elucidate causes and consequences of symbiotic variability. Molecular Ecology 23: 1284-1300.
  • Oliver KM, Smith AH, Russell JA (2014) Defensive symbiosis in the real world—diversity and maintenance of protective bacteria across aphids and other insects. Functional Ecology 28: 341-355. (invited review) (cover image)
  • Russell JA, Weldon S, Smith AH, Kim KL, Hu Y, Łukasik P, Doll S, Anastopoulos I, Novin M, Oliver KM (2013) Uncovering symbiont-driven genetic diversity across North American pea aphids. Molecular Ecology 22: 2045-2059.
  • Russell JA, Funaro CF, Milton Y, Goldman-Huertas B, Suh D, Moreau CS, Kronauer D, Pierce NE (2012) A veritable menagerie of heritable bacteria across the ants, lepidopterans, and beyond. PLoS One 7(12): e51027. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051027
  • Sullam KE, Essinger S, Lozupone CA, O’Connor M, Rosen G, Knight R, Kilham SS, Russell JA. (2012) Environmental and ecological factors that shape the gut bacterial communities of fish: a meta-analysis. Molecular Ecology 21: 3363-3378.
  • Anderson KE*, Russell JA*, Moreau CS, Katuz S, Sullam KE, Hu Y, Basinger U, Mott BM, Buch N, Wheeler D (2012) Highly similar microbial communities are shared among related and trophically similar ant species. Molecular Ecology 21: 2282-2296. (*co-first-authors)
  • Russell JA (2012) The ants are unique and enigmatic hosts of prevalent Wolbachia symbionts. Myrmecological News 16: 7-23. (invited review)
  • 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.
  • 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.