Daniel J. Funk, Ph.D.

Associate Professor


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Faculty Appointments
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
Ph.D., Ecology & Evolution, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New YorkB.S., University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana
Office Address
Dept. of Biological Sciences
Vanderbilt University
VU Station B, Box 35-1634
Nashville, KY 37235-1634
Research Description
Speciation is a process by which separate populations evolve a restricted capacity to reproduce and exchange genes with each other. When this "reproductive isolation" is complete, these populations have become new species that will henceforth experience genetically independent evolutionary histories. Recently, there has been increasing interest in how speciation might be promoted by the divergent adaptation of populations to different ecological challenges. It has been suggested, for example, that a tendency to ecologically specialize may help explain why about one quarter of all species of organisms on Earth are plant-feeding insects. Indeed, most species of insect herbivores are ecological specialists that use only a few kinds of host plants. Many of these insects are intimately adapted to their host plant, which represents their home, their food, and the place where they mate and reproduce.
In my research, I take a multidisciplinary approach in studying ecological specialization and the ways in which it might promote speciation in plant-feeding insects. My research includes experimental studies of insect feeding and mating behaviors in response to various plant taxa, as well as molecular studies of the population genetic mechanisms and phylogenetic patterns exhibited by host-associated herbivore species. By combining these approaches, I investigate both the ecological causes and the evolutionary consequences of host plant specialization and insect speciation. Since my work has an important geographic component, I spend part of each summer travelling and collecting insects across North America, where my study organisms live. My current study systems, a genus of leaf beetles and a species of aphid, are both amenable to rearing and study in the greenhouse and laboratory. They provide two quite biological distinctive and distantly related herbivore taxa for my investigations.
Research Keywords
Speciation; ecological specialization; phylogenetic diversification; molecular evolutionary genetics; herbivorous insect biology, ecology, and evolution
Nosil, P., D.J. Funk, and D. Ortiz-Barrientos. Divergent selection and heterogeneous genomic divergence [editorial]. Molecular Ecology (in press). 2009; (Vol: TBD): (Pages: TBD).

Egan*, S.P., P. Nosil, and D.J. Funk. Selection and genomic differentiation during ecological speciation: isolating the contributions of host-association via a comparative genome scan of Neochlamisus bebbianae leaf beetles. Evolution. 2008; 62: 1162-81.

Nosil, P., S.P. Egan*, and D.J. Funk. Heterogeneous genomic differentiation between walking-stick ecotypes: isolation by adaptation and multiple roles for divergent selection. Evolution. 2008; 62: 316-36.

Egan, S.P. , and D.J. Funk. Individual advantages to ecological specialization: insights on cognitive constraints from three conspecific taxa. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, Series B. 2006; 273: 843-8.

Gomez-Zurita, J., D.J. Funk, and A.P. Vogler. The evolution of unisexuality in Calligrapha leaf beetles: molecular and ecological insights on origins via interspecific hybridization. Evolution. 2006; 60: 328-47.

Funk, D.J., P. Nosil*, and W.J. Etges. Ecological divergence is consistently positively associated with reproductive isolation across disparate taxa. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 2006; 103: 3209-13.

Nosil, P., T.H. Vines, and D.J. Funk. Perspective: Reproductive isolation caused by natural selection against immigrants using divergent environments. Evolution. 2005; 59: 705-19.

Funk, D.J., and K.E. Omland. Species-level paraphyly and polyphyly: frequency, causes, and consequences, with insights from animal mitochondrial DNA. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics. 2003; 34: 397-423.

Funk, D.J., K.E. Filchak, and J.L. Feder. Herbivorous insects: model systems for the comparative study of speciation ecology. Genetica. 2002; 116: 251-67.

Funk, D.J., and E.A. Bernays. Geographic variation in host specificity reveals host range evolution in Uroleucon ambrosiae aphids. Ecology. 2001; 82: 726-39.

Funk, D.J., J.J. Wernegreen, and N.A. Moran. Intraspecific variation in symbiont genomes: bottlenecks and the aphid-Buchnera association. Genetics. 2001; 157: 477-89.

Funk, D.J., L. Helbling, J.J. Wernegreen, and N.A. Moran. Intraspecific phylogenetic congruence among multiple symbiont genomes. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 2000; 267: 2517-21.

Bernays, E.A., and D.J. Funk. Specialists make faster decisions than generalists: experiments with aphids. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B. 1999; 266: 151-6.

Funk, D.J. Molecular systematics of COI and 16S in Neochlamisus leaf beetles and the importance of sampling. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 1999; 16: 67-82.

Funk, D.J. Isolating a role for natural selection in speciation: host adaptation and sexual isolation in Neochlamisus bebbianae leaf beetles. Evolution. 1998; 52: 1744-59.

Futuyma, D.J., M.C. Keese, and D.J. Funk. Genetic constraints on macroevolution: the evolution of host affiliation in the leaf beetle genus Ophraella. Evolution. 1995; 49: 797-809.

Funk, D.J., D.J. Futuyma, G. Ortí, and A. Meyer. Mitochondrial DNA sequences and multiple data sets: a phylogenetic study of phytophagous beetles (Chrysomelidae: Ophraella). Molecular Biology and Evolution. 1995; 12: 627-40.

Funk, D.J., D.J. Futuyma, G. Ortí, and A. Meyer. A history of host associations and evolutionary diversification for Ophraella (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae): new evidence from mitochondrial DNA. Evolution. 1995; 49: 1008-17.