Ehab Abouheif

Associate Professor,
McGill University

Department of Biology
Institution page


Post Doctoral Studies, University of Chicago and University of California, Berkeley
August 2002-2004. Advisor: Dr. Nipam H. Patel
Ph.D., Duke University, NC, USA. Department of Biology.
May 2002. Advisor: Dr. Gregory A. Wray
SUNY at Stony Brook, NY, USA. Department of Ecology and Evolution,
From 1995-1999. Doctoral coursework and research.
M.Sc., Concordia University, QC, Canada. Department of Biology
September 1995. Advisor: Dr. Daphne J. Fairbairn
B.Sc. , Concordia University, QC, Canada. Department of Biology
June 1993. Honors program. Minor as member of Science College


My research program focuses on the evolution of development. This interdisciplinary field, which unites evolutionary and developmental biology, has given rise to many novel discoveries. One of the most exciting discoveries to emerge has been the realization that developmental regulatory genes, such as Hox genes, have been conserved across the animal kingdom. How the same genes and gene networks have come to pattern such diverse animal forms is a fundamental question in evolutionary developmental biology.

The general goal of my research program is to address this fundamental question by studying the complex relationship and interaction between the environment, genotype, and phenotype, and the role these factors play in the generation of morphological diversity. An important way in which the environment can change the relationship between genotype and phenotype is through plasticity in development.

Developmental plasticity, such as the different seasonal forms in a single butterfly species, is a pervasive feature of almost all living organisms. My lab focuses on a striking form of developmental plasticity called polyphenism.

QCBS students

Lisa Hanna

(Start: 2019, End: 2024)
The evolutionary and developmental mechanisms underlying origins of wing polypheniesm in ants

Giovanna De Blasis

(Start: 2017)
The chemical and genetic basis of caste regulation in ants

Érik Plante

(Start: 2020, End: 2022)
Other QCBS (co-)supervisor: Jean-Philippe Lessard
Élucider les facteurs environnementaux qui régissent la détermination des castes sociales à l’intérieur des colonies de fourmis

Previous students (since 2009)

Abderrahman Khila

Postdoctoral fellow
(Start: 2006, End: 2011)
Developmental genetic basis of the reproductive polyphenism in ants

Ab. Matteen Rafiqi

Postdoctoral fellow
(Start: 2011, End: 2013)
The Evolutionary Developmental Basis of Body Plans in Ants and Ant Mimics Among Flies

Marie-Julie Favé

(Start: 2007, End: 2013)
The role of past climate change in driving evolutionary novelties in Sky Island ant populations

Ana Sofia Ibarrarran-Viniegra

(Start: 2008, End: 2013)
The potential role of plasticity in division of labour in advanced ant societies.

Sophie Koch

(Start: 2016, End: 2018)
Mechanisms regulating soldier development in a hyperdiverse genus of ants

Maryna Lesoway

Other (co-)supervisor: Dr. Rachel Collin, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
(Start: 2009, End: 2016)
Direct Development with Nutritive Embryos: Developmental Polyphenisms in Evolution and Development
Personal page

Rajendhran Rajakumar

(Start: 2006, End: 2013)
Developmental basis of caste evolution in ants

Arjuna Rajakumar

(Start: 2014, End: 2019)
Identifying a molecular mechanism underlying Reproductive Constraint in Ants

Seba Jamal Shbailat

(Start: 2005, End: 2010)
Testing the major gene hypothesis of gene network evolution underlying wing polyphenism in ants

Examples of species studied

Linepithema humile
Atta cephalotes
Pogonomyrmex barbatus
Pheidole morrisi
Solenopsis invicta


54- The origin of wing polyphenism in ants: An eco-evo-devo perspective
Hanna L , Abouheif E ,
2021 Current Topics in Developmental Biology (Date Added: 2021-02-09)

53- Origin and elaboration of a major evolutionary transition in individuality
Rafiqi, AM, Rajakumar, A, Abouheif, E
2020 Nature (Date Added: 2020-09-04)

52- JEZB and the future of developmental evolution
Abouheif E ,
2019 Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution (Date Added: 2019-02-14)

51- The genome of the water strider Gerris buenoi reveals expansions of gene repertoires associated with adaptations to life on the water
Armisén D , Rajakumar R , Friedrich M , Benoit J B , Robertson H M , Panfilio K A , Ahn S , Poelchau M F , Chao H , Dinh H , Doddapaneni H V , Dugan S , Gibbs R A , Hughes D S T , Han Y , Lee S L , Murali S C , Muzny D M , Qu J , Worley K C , Munoz-Torres M , Abouheif E , Bonneton F , Chen T , Chiang L , Childers C P , Cridge A G , Crumière A J J , Decaras A , Didion E M , Duncan E J , Elpidina E N , Favé M , Finet C , Jacobs C G C , Cheatle Jarvela A M , Jennings E C , Jones J W , Lesoway M P , Lovegrove M R , Martynov A , Oppert B , Lillico-Ouachour A , Rajakumar A , Refki P N , Rosendale A J , Santos M E , Toubiana W , van der Zee M , Vargas Jentzsch I M , Lowman A V , Viala S , Richards S , Khila A ,
2018 BMC genomics (Date Added: 2018-11-30)

50- Interruption points in the wing gene regulatory network underlying wing polyphenism evolved independently in male and female morphs in Cardiocondyla ants
Oettler J , Platschek T , Schmidt C , Rajakumar R , Favé M , Khila A , Heinze J , Abouheif E ,
2018 Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution (Date Added: 2018-11-30)

49- Social regulation of a rudimentary organ generates complex worker-caste systems in ants
Rajakumar, R, Koch, S, Couture, M, Favé, M-J, Lillico-Ouachour, A, Chen, T, De Blasis, G, Rajakumar, A, Ouellette, D, Abouheif, E
2018 Nature (Date Added: 2018-10-10)

48- Internal head morphology of minor workers and soldiers in the hyperdiverse ant genus_Pheidole_
Lillico-Ouachour, A, Metscher, B, Kaji, T, Abouheif, E
2018 Canadian Journal of Zoology (Date Added: 2018-05-02)

46- Lack of interruption of the gene network underlying wing polyphenism in an early-branching ant genus
Béhague J , Fisher B L , Péronnet R , Rajakumar R , Abouheif E , Molet M ,
2018 Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution (Date Added: 2018-03-16)

45- Early Activation of MAPK and Apoptosis in Nutritive Embryos of Calyptraeid Gastropods
Lesoway M P , Collin R , Abouheif E ,
2017 Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution (Date Added: 2017-07-09)

44- Regulation, development, and evolution of caste ratios in the hyperdiverse ant genus Pheidole
Lillico-Ouachour, A, Abouheif, E
2017 Current Opinion in Insect Science (Date Added: 2017-01-11)

43- Comparative Transcriptomics of Alternative Developmental Phenotypes in a Marine Gastropod
Lesoway, MP, Abouheif, E, Collin, R
2016 Journal of Experimental Zoology. Part B, Molecular and Developmental Evolution (Date Added: 2016-06-03)

42- Modeling evolutionary transitions in social insects
Doebeli, M, Abouheif, E
2016 ELife (Date Added: 2016-02-15)

41- Epigenetic control of Egfr generates quantitative variation of a complex trait in ants
Alvarado, S, Rajakumar, R, Abouheif, E, Szyf, M
2015 Nature Communications (Date Added: 2016-06-21)

40- Past climate change on Sky Islands drives novelty in a core developmental gene network and its phenotype
Fave, M-J, Johnson, RA, Cover, S, Handschuh, S, Metscher, BD, Muller, GB, Gopalan, S, Abouheif, E
2015 BMC Evolutionary Biology (Date Added: 2015-09-17)

39- The significance and scope of evolutionary developmental biology: a vision for the 21st century
Moczek, AP, Sears, KE, Stollewerk, A, Wittkopp, PJ, Diggle, P, Dworkin, I, Ledon-Rettig, C, Matus, DQ, Roth, S, Abouheif, E, Brown, FD, Chiu, C-H, Cohen, CS, Tomaso, AWD, Gilbert, SF, Hall, B, Love, AC, Lyons, DC, Sanger, TJ, Smith, J, Specht, C, Vallejo-Marin, M, Extavour, CG
2015 Evolution & Development (Date Added: 2015-05-25)

38- It's time to get together: Announcing the new society for evolutionary developmental biology in the Americas
Abouheif, E, Sears, K
2015 Evolution & Development (Date Added: 2015-02-26)

36-Phylogenies and the Evolution of Development
Abouheif E ,
2014 The Tree of Life: systematics and evolution of living things ( Date Added: 2016-06-21)

35- Sex combs find middle ground in evolution debate
Abouheif E, Rafiqi AM,
2014 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Date Added: 2016-06-21)

34- The development of viable and nutritive embryos in the direct developing gastropod Crepidula navicella
Lesoway, MP, Abouheif, E, Collin, R
2014 The International Journal of Developmental Biology (Date Added: 2015-05-11)

33- Eco-Evo-Devo: The Time Has Come
Abouheif, E, Favé, M-J, Ibarrarán-Viniegra, AS, Lesoway, MP, Rafiqi, AM, Rajakumar, R
2014 Ecological Genomics (Date Added: 2014-02-14)

32- The Wing-Patterning Network in the Wingless Castes of Myrmicine and Formicine Ant Species Is a Mix of Evolutionarily Labile and Non-Labile Genes
Shbailat, SJ, Abouheif, E
2013 Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution (Date Added: 2013-03-18)

31- Evolution: oskar Reveals Missing Link in Co-optive Evolution
Abouheif, E
2013 Current Biology (Date Added: 2013-01-21)

30-Filogenias y evolución del desarrollo
Abouheif E ,
2012 El árbol de la vida: sistemática y evolución de los seres vivo ( Date Added: 2016-06-21)

29- Function, Developmental Genetics, and Fitness Consequences of a Sexually Antagonistic Trait
Khila, A, Abouheif, E, Rowe, L
2012 Science (Date Added: 2012-05-14)

28- Ancestral developmental potential facilitates parallel evolution in ants
Rajakumar, R, San Mauro, D, Dijkstra, MB, Huang, MH, Wheeler, DE, Hiou-Tim, F, Khila, A, Cournoyea, M, Abouheif, E
2012 Science (Date Added: 2012-01-09)

27- The role of developmental plasticity in evolutionary innovation
Moczek, AP, Sultan, S, Foster, S, Ledon-Rettig, C, Dworkin, I, Nijhout, HF, Abouheif, E, Pfennig, DW
2011 Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Date Added: 2011-09-05)

26- Draft genome of the globally widespread and invasive Argentine ant (Linepithema humile)
Smith, CD, Zimin, A, Holt, C, Abouheif, E, Benton, R, Cash, E, Croset, V, Currie, CR, Elhaik, E, Elsik, CG, Fave, M-J, Fernandes, V, Gadau, J, Gibson, JD, Graur, D, Grubbs, KJ, Hagen, DE, Helmkampf, M, Holley, J-A, Hu, H, Viniegra, ASI, Johnson, BR, Johnson, RM, Khila, A, Kim, JW, Laird, J, Mathis, KA, Moeller, JA, Munoz-Torres, MC, Murphy, MC, Nakamura, R, Nigam, S, Overson, RP, Placek, JE, Rajakumar, R, Reese, JT, Robertson, HM, Smith, CR, Suarez, AV, Suen, G, Suhr, EL, Tao, S, Torres, CW, van Wilgenburg, E, Viljakainen, L, Walden, KKO, Wild, AL, Yandell, M, Yorke, JA, Tsutsui, ND
2011 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Date Added: 2011-06-01)

25- The Phylogenetic Origin of oskar Coincided with the Origin of Maternally Provisioned Germ Plasm and Pole Cells at the Base of the Holometabola
Lynch, JA, Özüak, O, Khila, A, Abouheif, E, Desplan, C, Roth, S
2011 PLoS Genetics (Date Added: 2011-05-24)

24- Draft genome of the red harvester ant Pogonomyrmex barbatus
Smith, CR, Smith, CD, Robertson, HM, Helmkampf, M, Zimin, A, Yandell, M, Holt, C, Hu, H, Abouheif, E, Benton, R, Cash, E, Croset, V, Currie, CR, Elhaik, E, Elsik, CG, Fave, M-J, Fernandes, V, Gibson, JD, Graur, D, Gronenberg, W, Grubbs, KJ, Hagen, DE, Viniegra, ASI, Johnson, BR, Johnson, RM, Khila, A, Kim, JW, Mathis, KA, Munoz-Torres, MC, Murphy, MC, Mustard, JA, Nakamura, R, Niehuis, O, Nigam, S, Overson, RP, Placek, JE, Rajakumar, R, Reese, JT, Suen, G, Tao, S, Torres, CW, Tsutsui, ND, Viljakainen, L, Wolschin, F, Gadau, J
2011 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Date Added: 2011-05-17)

23- Gynandromorphs as indicators of modularity and evolvability in ants
Yang, AS, Abouheif, E
2011 Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution (Date Added: 2011-05-02)

22- The genome sequence of the leaf-cutter ant Atta cephalotes reveals insights into its obligate symbiotic lifestyle
Suen, G, Teiling, C, Li, L, Holt, C, Abouheif, E, Bornberg-Bauer, E, Bouffard, P, Caldera, EJ, Cash, E, Cavanaugh, A, Denas, O, Elhaik, E, Favé, M-J, Gadau, J, Gibson, JD, Graur, D, Grubbs, KJ, Hagen, DE, Harkins, TT, Helmkampf, M, Hu, H, Johnson, BR, Kim, J, Marsh, SE, Moeller, JA, Muñoz-TorresMó, MC, Murphy, MC, Naughton, MC, Nigam, S, Overson, R, Rajakumar, R, Reese, JT, Scott, JJ, Smith, CR, Tao, S, Tsutsui, ND, Viljakainen, L, Wissler, L, Yandell, MD, Zimmer, F, Taylor, J, Slater, SC, Clifton, SW, Warren, WC, Elsik, CG, Smith, CD, Weinstock, GM, Gerardo, NM, Currie, CR
2011 PLoS Genetics (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

21- Evaluating the role of reproductive constraints in ant social evolution
Khila, A, Abouheif, E
2010 Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

20- Correlations between spatiotemporal changes in gene expression and apoptosis underlie wing polyphenism in the ant Pheidole morrisi
Shbailat, SJ, Khila, A, Abouheif, E
2010 Evolution and Development (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

19- In Situ Hybridization on Ant Ovaries and Embryos
Khila, A, Abouheif, E
2009 Cold Spring Harbor Protocols (Date Added: 2012-08-21)

18- Evolution of a novel appendage ground plan in water striders is driven by changes in the Hox gene Ultrabithorax
Khila, A, Abouheif, E, Rowe, L
2009 PLoS Genetics (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

17- The dynamics of developmental system drift in the gene network underlying wing polyphenism in ants: A mathematical model
Nahmad, M, Glass, L, Abouheif, E
2008 Evolution and Development (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

16- Reproductive constraint is a developmental mechanism that maintains social harmony in advanced ant societies
Khila, A, Abouheif, E
2008 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

15- Parallelism as the pattern and process of mesoevolution
Abouheif, E
2008 Evolution and Development (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

14- Growth and patterning are evolutionarily dissociated in the vestigial wing discs of workers of the red imported fire ant, Solenopsis invicta
Bowsher, JH, Wray, GA, Abouheif, E
2007 Journal of Experimental Zoology Part B: Molecular and Developmental Evolution (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

13- Comparative methods for the analysis of gene-expression evolutions: An example using yeast functional genomic data
Oakley, TH, Gu, Z, Abouheif, E, Patel, NH, Li, W-H
2005 Molecular Biology and Evolution (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

12- Rapidly evolving traits and the comparative method: How important is testing for phylogenetic signal?
Rheindt, FE, Grafe, TU, Abouheif, E
2004 Evolutionary Ecology Research (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

11- The evolution of transcriptional regulation in eukaryotes
Wray, GA, Hahn, MW, Abouheif, E, Balhoff, JP, Pizer, M, Rockman, MV, Romano, LA
2003 Molecular Biology and Evolution (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

10- Evolution of the gene network underlying wing polyphenism in ants
Abouheif, E, Wray, GA
2002 Science (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

8- A method for testing the assumption of phylogenetic independence in comparative data
Abouheif, E
1999 Evolutionary Ecology Research (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

7- When is homology not homology?
Wray, GA, Abouheif, E
1998 Current Opinion in Genetics and Development (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

6- Random trees and the comparative method: A cautionary tale
Abouheif, E
1998 Evolution (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

4- Developmental genetics and homology: A hierarchical approach
Abouheif, E
1997 Trends in Ecology and Evolution (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

3- A comparative analysis of allometry for sexual size dimorphism: Assessing Rensch's rule
Abouheif, E, Fairbairn, DJ
1997 American Naturalist (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

2- Evolutionary analyses of hedgehog and Hoxd-10 genes in fish species closely related to the zebrafish
Zardoya, R, Abouheif, E, Meyer, A
1996 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

1- Evolution and orthology of hedgehog genes.
Zardoya, R, Abouheif, E, Meyer, A
1996 Trends in Genetics (Date Added: 2011-04-08)

In the media

27e édition des découvertes de l'année de Québec Science

Un organe éphémère chez la fourmi révèle son secret
(Melissa Guillemette) 2020-01-09

Découvertes 2019 de Québec Science : des chercheurs de McGill à l’honneur

Montreal biologist resolves Darwin's unanswered question: Why do soldier ants grow so big?
(Kerawala) 2018-10-21

Seemingly ‘useless’ organ makes huge soldier ants
(Gombay, Katherine) 2018-10-21

Insects Conquered a Watery Realm With Just Two New Genes
(Sauvé, Jacques-Normand) 2017-10-09

Seven emerging researchers given national honour
(Jezer-Morton, Kathryn) 2016-09-07

The most controversial line in Hillary Clinton's acceptance speech was about science
(Cole, Samantha) 2016-07-29

Trump Just Totally Ignored Science... Again
(DiGiulio, Sarah) 2016-07-27

Trump’s immigration stance stokes fears for science
(Heidi Ledford) 2016-04-05

How epigenetics let scientists make giant ants

Le monde merveilleux des fourmis, vu par un passionné

Epigenetics: How Social Behavior Can Be Reprogrammed In Ants…And Possibly Humans, Too
Medical Daily (Bushak, Lecia) 2016-01-04

Bipolar drug turns foraging ants into scouts
ScienceMag ( Elizabeth Pennisi) 2015-12-31

$27M in NSERC funding for long-term research
(Mcgill Reporter) 2015-06-22

McGill scientists show how nature controls animal size by growing ants that are twice their normal dimensions
National Post 2015-03-12

Scientists turn ant clones into dwarfs or giants using epigenetics
CBC News (Chung, Emily) 2015-03-12

Honey, I shrunk the ants: how environment controls size
McGill Newsroom 2015-03-11

Scientists show how nature controls animal sizes
CTVNews 2015-03-11

Islam and Evolution: Can science and religion coexist harmoniously?
Islam Science (Alip, Zapaer) 2014-10-26

Cure for cancer might be found deep in an ant hill
IPolitics (lake, holly) 2014-02-03

McGill researchers receive national prizes
The Montreal Gazette (Seidman, Karen) 2014-02-03

Muslim Inggris Tolak Debat Teori Evolusi
Republika Online 2012-12-18

Debate on Islam and evolution has to be called off after revolt by student societies
The Independent (Taylor, Jerome) 2012-12-14

La fourmi qui faisait la grosse tête
La Presse (Tison, Marc) 2012-06-12

L'évolution sexuelle des patineurs sous la loupe - Science -
Radio-Canada 2012-05-04

Biologists turn back the clock to understand evolution of sex differences
McGill Newsroom (Chipello, Chris) 2012-05-03

Remonter le temps pour comprendre l’évolution des différences sexuelles
McGill Salle de Presse (Chipello, Chris) 2012-05-03

A discovery with gigANTic implications
McGill News - Alumni Magazine (Reynolds, Mark) 2012-01-27

Back to the future: Supersoldier ants illuminate evolution
McGill Channel 2012-01-20

McGill mutates ants into giants
Global National 2012-01-16

Une percée en génétique des fourmis laisse présager de formidables avancées chez l’Homme
Pieuvre (Prévost, Hugues) 2012-01-16

Les fourmis « Transformers »
Les années lumière (Hudon-Friceau, Annie) 2012-01-15

La génétique derrière les supersoldates
Radio-Canada 2012-01-11

Kanadische Forscher untersuchen das Geheimnis der Ameisenkriegerinnen - Supersoldatinnen schlummern im Genom
Deutschlandfunk 2012-01-10

Retour vers le futur - des fourmis supersoldates

Retour vers le futur : des fourmis supersoldates

Furnicile pot fi transformate în super-soldaţi 2012-01-08

Szuperharcos hangyákat hoztak létre
Mixonline 2012-01-08

Alte Gene machen Superameisen
neues deutschland (Felix Langhammer, Axel Gebauer; WARENFORM http://www warenform net) 2012-01-07

O renascimento das formigas super-soldado
PÚBLICO 2012-01-07

Giant ants shed light on genetics
Winnipeg Free Press (Hanes, Alison; Muise, Monique) 2012-01-07

‘Super soldier’ ants created at McGill
National Post 2012-01-06

News: Back to the future: Supersoldier ants illuminate evolution
McGill Newsroom 2012-01-06

Hormigas convertidas en supersoldados
Terra 2012-01-06

Nouvelles: Retour vers le futur : Des fourmis supersoldates
McGill Salle de Presse 2012-01-06

Jugend-Hormon macht Ameisen zu Giganten
Spiegel Online 2012-01-06

Pesquisadores desenvolvem formigas 'supersoldados'
Terra 2012-01-06

Supersoldier ants illuminate evolution
Outlook Series 2012-01-06

Genetic secrets of ant societies

La clé de l'harmonie sociale des fourmis découverte dans le code génétique de la reine
Le Code Chastenay 2010-04-23

La teoría de la evolución divide también al mundo islámico
Tendencias21 (Martinez, Yaiza) 2009-03-31