Neil Durie Tsutsui

Assistant Professor, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology
School of Biological Sciences

AS OF JULY 1, 2007: Department of Environmental Science, Policy & Management, UC-Berkeley

B.A., Boston University, 1995, Biology, specialization in Marine Science

Ph.D., University of California, San Diego, 2000, Biology

Phone: (949) 824-7525
Fax: (949) 823-2181
Email: ntsutsui [at] uci [dot] edu

University of California, Irvine
321 Steinhaus Hall
Mail Code: 2525
Irvine, CA 92697

picture of Neil Durie Tsutsui

***WE WILL BE MOVING TO UC BERKELEY ON JULY 1, 2007. VISIT US AT: HTTP://ESPM.BERKELEY.EDU*** Invasive species; Evolution of social organization; Animal behavior; Conservation biology.
URL The Tsutsui lab
Appointments Center for Population Biology, Dept. of Evolution and Evology
University of California, Davis
2000 - 2003
Advisor: Richard K. Grosberg
The research in our lab encompasses a variety of evolutionary and ecological topics in the general areas of molecular ecology, behavioral ecology, and population genetics.

Invasive Species: Biological invasions are a serious threat to global biodiversity, and much of our previous research has focused on a particularly damaging invader, the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). Argentine ants have been introduced by humans to many of the world's Mediterranean-type ecosystems, where they disrupt ecosystems by displacing native species, cause indirect damage to crops by tending parasitic homoptera (such as aphids and scale insects), and are a common household pest. Moreover, introduced populations of Argentine ants are unicolonial, forming massive "supercolonies" that can extend for thousands of kilometers. The lack of aggression and territoriality within these supercolonies allows introduced populations to thrive and dominate invaded habitats. By studying the genetics and behavior of Argentine ants in their native and introduced ranges, we have shown how relatively simple genetic changes can impact higher levels of biological organization, producing altered behavior, novel forms of social organization, and ultimately transforming entire ecosystems. Because many other invasive ants are also unicolonial, the factors that allow Argentine ants to become such successful invaders may also explain the success of many other invasive social insects.

The Genetics and Biochemistry of Social Organization: We are also interested in the genetics and evolution of social organization, particularly the mechanisms used by organisms to distinguish self from non-self (in this case, colony members from non-members). Argentine ants appear to use odor cues (specifically, chemicals known as cuticular hydrocarbons) to sniff out individuals who do not belong. Our group currently has several ongoing projects in which we are examining how genetic diversity, genetic similarity, cuticular hydrocarbons, and individual behaviors can interact to produce highly organized and complex societies.

Host-Parasite Coevolution:
We have begun to look at the interactions between parasites (or parasitoids) and their hosts in several different systems. In one study, we are using molecular genetic tools to examine how slave-making ants in the genus Polyergus have co-evolved with the host species that they enslave. For another project, we are looking at how head-decapitating phorid flies (genus Pseudacteon) have co-evolved with the various ants that they parasitize. Other work in the lab is focusing how infections of the maternally-transmitted bacterium, Wolbachia pipiens, are distributed among populations infected insects, and how different strains of the bacteria are distributed across different species and genera in various ecosystems.

The Genetics and Genomics of Honeybees (Apis mellifera): In collaboration with Dr. Charlie Whitfield (University of Illinois, Urbana Champaign) and others, we have recently conducted genetic analyses of Old World (native) and New World (introduced) honeybees using SNP markers from the Honeybee Genome Project. This work has illuminated the relationships among the various subspecies of Apis mellifera that occur in Africa, Asia and Europe, and is allowing us to disentangle the long and complex history of honeybee introductions to the New World.

Conservation Genetics:
We are using genetic tools to clarify how habitat loss and habitat fragmentation affects patterns of genetic diversity and gene flow in insect populations of southern California. Current work is focusing on the population genetics of native species of harvester ants (Pogonomyrmex), and we hope to conduct similar analyses of native army ants (Nievamyrmex), winter ants (Prenolepis impairs) and native and introduced beetles (Carabidae and Tenebrionidae).
Publications Thomas, M., C. M. Payne-Makrisa, A. V. Suarez, N. D. Tsutsui, and D. A. Holway. 2006. When supercolonies collide: Territorial aggression in an invasive and unicolonial social insect. MOLECULAR ECOLOGY. 15:4303-4315.
  Whitfield, C. W., S. K. Behura, S. H. Berlocher, A. G. Clark, S. Johnston, W. S. Sheppard, D. Smith, A. V. Suarez, D. Weaver, and N. D. Tsutsui. 2006. Thrice out of Africa: Ancient and recent expansions of the honey bee, Apis mellifera. SCIENCE. 314:642-645.
  The Honeybee Genome Sequencing Consortium. 2006. The genome of a highly social species, the honeybee Apis mellifera. NATURE. 443:931-949.
  Thomas, M., N. D. Tsutsui, and D. A. Holway. 2005. Intraspecific competition influences the symmetry and intensity of aggression in the invasive Argentine ant. BEHAVIORAL ECOLOGY 16: 472-481.
  Tsutsui, N. D. 2004. Scents of self: The expression component of self/non-self recognition systems. ANNALES ZOOLOGICI FENNICI 41:713-727.
  Suarez, A. V. and N. D. Tsutsui. 2004. The value of museum collections for research and society. BIOSCIENCE 54:66-74.
  Tsutsui, N. D., S. N. Kauppinen, A. F. Oyafuso, and R. K. Grosberg. 2003b. The distribution and evolutionary history of Wolbachia infection in native and introduced populations of the invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). MOLECULAR ECOLOGY 12:3057-3068.
  Tsutsui, N. D. and A. V. Suarez. 2003. The colony structure and population biology of invasive ants. CONSERVATION BIOLOGY 17:48-58.
  Tsutsui, N. D., A. V. Suarez, and R. K. Grosberg. 2003. Genetic diversity, asymmetrical aggression, and recognition in a widespread invasive species. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, USA 100:1078-1083.
  Suarez, A. V., D. A. Holway, D. Liang, N. D. Tsutsui, and T. J. Case. 2002. Spatio-temporal patterns of intraspecific aggression in the invasive Argentine ant. ANIMAL BEHAVIOUR 64:697-708.
  Holway, D. A., L. Lach, A. V. Suarez, N. D. Tsutsui, and T. J. Case. 2002. The ecological causes and consequences of ant invasions. ANNUAL REVIEW OF ECOLOGY AND SYSTEMATICS 33:181-233.
  Tsutsui, N. D., A. V. Suarez, D. A. Holway, and T. J. Case. 2001. Relationships among native and introduced populations of the Argentine ant, Linepithema humile and the source of introduced populations. MOLECULAR ECOLOGY 10:2151-2161.
  Tsutsui, N. D. and T. J. Case. 2001. Population genetics and colony structure of the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) in its native and introduced ranges. EVOLUTION 55:976-985.
  Tsutsui, N. D., A. V. Suarez, D. A. Holway and T. J. Case. 2000. Reduced genetic variation and the success of an invasive species. PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES, USA 97:5948-5953.
  Suarez, A. V., N. D. Tsutsui, D. A. Holway and T.J. Case. 1999. Behavioral and genetic differentiation between native and introduced populations of the Argentine ant. BIOLOGICAL INVASIONS 1:43-53.
Grants "The Genetic and Biochemical Basis of Altered Social Behavior in the Invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile)"; United States Department of Agriculture (NRI-CGP); $325,000; Sept. 2004-Aug. 2007.
"The Role of Genetics and Cuticular Hydrocarbons in Argentine ant Aggression"; Structural Pest Control Board, California Department of Consumer Affairs; $312,037; Sept. 2005-Aug. 2008. co-Investigator: Ken Shea (UCI, Dept. of Chemistry)
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Last updated 05/01/2007