Robert Reed
Associate Professor

Robert Reed




Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
Cornell University
E447 Corson Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853


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Department Profile


Robert Reed is an Associate Professor in the Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology.  He received an A.B. degree in Integrative Biology in 1997 from U.C. Berkeley and a Ph.D. degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology in 2004 from the University of Arizona.  He was a Hargitt Research Fellow in Cell Biology at Duke University in 2004 and from 2005-2007 a Postdoctoral Fellow in Comparative Genomics.  From 2007-20012 he was an Assistant Professor at U.C. Irvine.

Research Description

Most of my work aims to uncover the genes and developmental processes that govern the diversification of animal color patterns. I want to know how development influences the range of variation that arises and is maintained in natural populations. I also want to know how, in turn, natural selection drives the evolution of developmental processes. Butterfly wing patterns are my study system of choice because they permit a beautiful integration of population biology, phylogenetics, ecology, and developmental genetics. Developing butterfly wings are easy to work with in the lab and we have a good grasp of the evolutionary pressures driving wing pattern evolution.


Martin, A., R. Papa, N. Nadeau, R. I. Hill, B. A. Counterman, C. D. Jiggins, M. R. Kronforst, A. D. Long, W. O. McMillan, and R. D. Reed. 2012. Diversification of complex butterfly wing patterns by repeated regulatory evolution of a Wnt ligand. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. 109:12632-12637.

The Heliconius Genome Consortium. 2012. Genomic evidence for promiscuous exchange of adaptations among Heliconius butterfly species. Nature 487:94-98.

Finkbeiner, S. D., A. D. Briscoe, and R. D. Reed. 2012. The benefit of being a social butterfly: communal roosting deters predation. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 279:2769-2776.

Daniels, E. V., K. A. Mooney, and R. D. Reed. 2012. Seasonal wing colour plasticity varies dramatically between buckeye butterfly populations in different climatic zones. Ecological Entomology 37:155-159.

Reed, R. D., R. Papa, A. Martin, H. M. Hines, B. A. Counterman, C. Pardo-Diaz, C. D. Jiggins, N. L. Chamberlain, M. R. Kronforst, R. Chen, G. Halder, H. F. Nijhout, and W. O. McMillan. 2011. Optix drives the repeated convergent evolution of butterfly wing pattern mimicry. Science 333:1137-1141.

Hines, H. M., B. A. Counterman, R. Papa, P. A. de Moura, M. A. Cardoso, M. Linares, J. Mallet, R. D. Reed, C. D. Jiggins, M. Kronforst, and W. O. McMillan. 2011. A wing patterning gene redefines the mimetic history of Heliconius butterflies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA 108:19666-19671.

Martin, A. and R. D. Reed. 2010. Wingless and aristaless2 define a developmental ground plan for moth and butterfly wing pattern evolution. Molecular Biology and Evolution 27:2864-2878.

Macdonald, W. P., A. Martin, and R. D. Reed. 2010. Butterfly wings shaped by a molecular cookie cutter: Evolutionary radiation of lepidopteran wing shapes associated with a derived Cut / wingless wing margin boundary system. Evolution and Development 12:296-304.