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Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Cornell University Cornell University Cornell University Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Robert Reed


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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Reed, Robert

Associate Professor

phone: 607-254-1315
room: E447 Corson Hall


Lab Website


A.B. 1997, University of California at Berkeley

Ph.D. 2004, University of Arizona

Graduate Fields:

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Other Cornell Affiliations:

Cornell Center for Comparative and Population Genomics
Associate Curator of Lepidoptera, Cornell University Insect Collection


Evolution and development, gene regulation, pattern formation, functional genomics, morphological evolution, adaptation, comparative biology

Research Focus

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.

Selected Publications

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.