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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Cornell University Cornell University Cornell University Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Anurag Agrawal


Hylodes phyllodes, a stream-breeding frog from Atlantic Coastal Forest of Brazil


Biology of Fishes class collecting at Oneida Lake


An Acacia tree backlit by the African sunset


Pisaster ochraceus in the intertidal


Common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca, growing in Ithaca

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Agrawal, Anurag


Anurag Agrawalemail:
phone: 607-254-4255
room: E425 Corson Hall


Lab Website


B.A. 1994, University of Pennsylvania

M.A. 1994, University of Pennsylvania

Ph.D. 1999, University of California at Davis

Graduate Fields:

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Other Cornell Affiliations:

Cornell Chemical Ecology Group


Biodiversity, chemical ecology, coevolution, herbivory, phenotypic plasticity, phylogenetics and comparative biology, and species invasions

Research Focus

My research program addresses questions in the ecology and evolution of interactions between plants and animals. In particular, we focus on the generally antagonistic interactions between plants and insect herbivores and ultimately seek to understand the complexity of community-wide interactions. What ecological factors allow the coexistence of similar species? What evolutionary factors led to the diversification of species? In total, plants and insect herbivores comprise about one half of earth's macroscopic biodiversity and herbivory accounts for major losses in agriculture. Given that herbivory is the conduit through which most of plant's autotrophic energy is transmitted to the rest of the food web, the focus on plant-herbivore interactions in justifiably important. My approach to science includes 1) rigorous, manipulative field experiments to test for the importance of conceptually or theoretically developed interactions, 2) comparative phylogenetic approaches to describing deep evolutionary patterns which bear on long-standing hypotheses, 3) the search for novel interactions which may be pervasive in nature but have escaped our attention, and 4) a keen interest in teaching and mentoring students at all levels of education.

Recent Courses Taught

  • BioEE 3610/3611 Advanced Ecology and Field Lab
  • BioEE 3690 Chemical Ecology
  • BioEE 7590 Special Topics in EEB: Plant-Insect Interactions Seminar
  • BioG 4990 Independent Undergraduate Research in Biology

Selected Publications

Rasmann, S. and A. A. Agrawal. 2011. Evolution of specialization: a phylogenetic study of host range in the red milkweed beetle (Tetraopes tetraophthalmus). American Naturalist (in press).

Cook-Patton, S. C., S. H. McArt, A. Parachnowitsch, J. S. Thaler, and A. A. Agrawal. 2011. A direct comparison of the ecosystem and community impacts of genotypic and species diversity. Ecology (in press).

Agrawal, A. A. 2011. Current trends in the evolutionary ecology of plant defense. Functional Ecology (in press).

Rasmann, S., A. C. Erwin, R. Halitschke, and A. A. Agrawal. 2011. Direct and indirect root defense of milkweed (Asclepias syriaca): trophic cascades, tradeoffs, and novel methods for studying subterranean herbivory. Journal of Ecology 99:16-25.

Mooney, K. A., R. Halitschke, A. Kessler, and A. A. Agrawal. 2010. Evolutionary tradeoffs in plants mediate the strength of trophic cascades. Science 327:1642-1644.

Agrawal, A. A., J-P. Salminen, and M. Fishbein. 2009. Phylogenetic trends in phenolic metabolism of milkweeds (Asclepias): Evidence for escalation. Evolution 63:663-673.

Futuyma, D. J. and A. A. Agrawal. 2009. Macroevolution and the biological diversity of plants and herbivores. PNAS 106:18054-18061.