Bernard Crespi


Molecular Phylogenetics


  • AB, University of Chicago
  • PhD, University of Michigan

Areas of Research

Research Interests

The purpose of my research program is to use integrated genetic, ecological and phylogenetic approaches to study social evolution across all levels in the hierarchy of life, from genes, to cells, to organisms, to social systems, and to the brain.
In my lab we currently focus on several of the outstanding questions in evolutionary biology, including the evolution of social behaviour, the evolution of human health and disease, the evolution of placentation and maternal-fetal conflict, the evolution of trophic interactions, and the roles of genetics, ecology and geography in speciation and adaptive radiation.
To analyze the evolution of social behaviour, we use a large clade of Australian insects, gall-forming Thysanoptera (thrips) on Acacia, which exhibit a suite of traits making them ideal for partitioning of the roles of genetic systems, female-biased sex ratios, and ecology in the evolution of cooperation and eusociality. These studies involve a combination of fieldwork in outback Australia, systematic and taxonomic analyses, and laboratory studies using DNA technologies. See my book on Acacia thrips (Crespi et al. 2004) for more details (paper 83 in selected publications list).
We are studying the evolution of human health and disease by analyzing the adaptive and evolutionary-genetic bases of the major human diseases that are mediated in part by genomic conflicts: placental disorders, cancer, autism, and schizophrenia. I am also writing a book on the Evolutionary Biology of the Social Brain.
We are analyzing the genetics, ecology and geography of speciation using species of walking-sticks in the genus Timema, which exhibit a set of characteristics, including crypsis, genetically-based color polymorphisms, variable degrees of host-plant specificity, and obligate and facultative parthenogenesis, that make them ideal for a combined phylogenetic and ecological attack on these questions. These studies are being conducted in collaboration with Cris Sandoval, Tanja Schwander and Patrik Nosil.
We are studying the evolution of maternal-fetal conflict over resources in mammals, via phylogenetic comparative analyses of placental and maternal traits, and connecting placental invasiveness with aspects of mammalian life history and encephalization.
See the FAB-LAB website and my current publication list for additional topics of research in my lab.


Future courses may be subject to change.