Joseph Parker

Assistant Professor of Biology and Biological Engineering
B.S., Imperial College London, 2001; Ph.D. University of Cambridge, 2005. Visiting Associate, Caltech, 2017; Assistant Professor, 2017-.

Interactions between species have been central to life's diversification. We are interested in the mechanisms underlying evolutionary change, particularly in the context of symbiosis. Our focus is on the behaviorally complex interspecies relationships that have evolved within the Metazoa. We use rove beetles (Staphylinidae) as our exploratory system, a hugely species-rich clade that has repeatedly evolved highly intimate and phenotypically elaborate symbioses with ants. Such species embody evolution in the extreme, with dramatic behavioral, anatomical and chemical adaptations for life as social parasites inside ant colonies. The widespread evolution of this symbiosis in staphylinids provides a unique paradigm for understanding how obligate interspecies interactions can evolve between free-living organisms. We are interested in the core molecular and neurobiological circuitry by which reciprocal signals are exchanged between ant and beetle, fostering their interaction. Our work is integrative, combining genomics and developmental biology with chemical ecology and behavioural neuroscience to explore all facets of the ant-beetle interaction and its evolutionary basis. We have found that some of the most remarkable symbiotic phenotypes have evolved convergently many times in Staphylinidae, often in distantly related lineages. The system illuminates the enduring question of how complex phenotypic changes can arise repeatedly and predictably over a deep evolutionary timescale.     

Joe Parker 2


Selected Publications 

Parker, J., Eldredge, K.T., Thomas, I., Coleman, R., and Davis, S. (2017) Hox-logic of preadaptations for social insect symbiosis in rove beetles. bioRxiv, 198945 [Download]

Yamamoto, S., Maruyama, M. and Parker, J. (2017) Evidence from Amber for the Origins of Termitophily. Current Biology, 27, R792–R794


Yin, Z.-W., Parker, J., Cai, C.-Y., Huang D.-Y. and Lia, L.-Z. (2017) A New Stem Bythinine in Cretaceous Burmese Amber and Early Evolution of Specialized Predatory Behavior in Pselaphine Rove Beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) : Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. [Download]

Yamamoto, S., Maruyama, M. and Parker, J. (2017) Evidence from Amber for the Origins of Termitophily. Current Biology, 27, R792–R794 [Download]

Maruyama, M. and Parker, J. (2017) Deep-Time Convergence in Rove Beetle Symbionts of Army Ants. Current Biology, 27, 1–7 [Download]

Yamamoto, S., Takahashi, Y. and Parker, J. (2017) Evolutionary Stasis in Enigmatic Jacobsoniid Beetles. Gondwana Research, 45, 275–281 [Download]

Parker, J. (2017) Staphylinids: Quick Guide. Current Biology, 27, R43–R56 [Download]

Yamamoto, S., Maruyama, M. and Parker, J. (2016) Evidence for Social Parasitism of Early Insect Societies by Cretaceous Rove Beetles. Nature Communications, 7: 13658 [Download]

Parker, J. (2016) Emergence of a Superradiation: Pselaphine Rove Beetles in Mid-Cretaceous Amber From Myanmar and Their Evolutionary Implications. Systematic Entomology, 41, 541–466 [Download]

Parker, J. (2016) Myrmecophily in Beetles (Coleoptera): Evolutionary Patterns and Biological Mechanisms. Myrmecological News, 22, 65–108 [Download]  

Parker, J. and Struhl, G. (2015) Scaling the Drosophila Wing: TOR-Dependent Target Gene Access by the Hippo Pathway Transducer Yorkie. PLoS Biology, 13(10): e1002274 [Download]

Parker, J. and Grimaldi, D. (2014) Specialized Myrmecophily at the Ecological Dawn of Modern Ants. Current Biology, 24, 2428–2434

Parker, J. (2014) Morphogenia: a New Genus of the Neotropical Tribe Jubini (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Pselaphinae) from the Brazilian Amazon. Zookeys, 373, 57–66 [Download]

Hlaváč, P., Baňař, P., and Parker, J. (2013) The Pselaphinae of Madagascar. II. Redescription of the Genus Semiclaviger Wasmann, 1893 (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Pselaphinae: Clavigeritae) and Synonymy of the Subtribe Radamina Jeannel, 1954. Zootaxa, 3736, 265–276 [Download]

Parker, J. and Maruyama, M. (2013) Jubogaster towai, a New Neotropical Genus and Species of Trogastrini (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Pselaphinae) Exhibiting Myrmecophily and Extreme Body Enlargement. Zootaxa, 3630, 369–378 [Download]

Parker, J. (2011) Morphogens, Nutrients, and the Basis of Organ Scaling. Evolution and Development, 13, 304–314 [Download]

Parker, J. (2006) Control of Compartment Size by an EGF Ligand from Neighboring Cells. Current Biology, 16, 2058–2065 [Download]

Parker, J. and Johnston, L.A. (2006) The Proximate Determinants of Insect Size. Journal of Biology, 5, 15 [Download]


  • Joe Parker
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