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Ulrich G Mueller

Department of Integrative Biology

William Morton Wheeler-Lost Pines Professorship


Office Location
PAT 629

Postal Address
AUSTIN, TX 78712

2006- present     W.M. Wheeler Lost Pines Professor of Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin


2002-2006           Associate Professor, Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin

2002- present     Research Associate, National Museum Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

1999-2002           Assistant Professor, Integrative Biology, University of Texas at Austin

1997-1999           Assistant Professor, Biology, University of Maryland, College Park

1995-1996           Fellow, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama

1992-1995           Research Associate, Cornell Institute for Research in Chemical Ecology

1992                    PhD, Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University

Research Summary:

The Mueller lab studies evolution of organismal interactions, particularly evolution of social conflict & cooperation and evolution of mutualisms. Current research focuses on the behavior and coevolution between fungus-growing ants and their fungi, as well as plants and rhizosphere microbes, but Dr. Mueller admits to an inordinate fondness for any social insect and any mutualistic organism.

Evolution, Ecology, Behavior & Genomics of Social Insects: Our social-insect research integrates animal behavior, ecology, evolution, genomics, microbiology, and systematics, with a focus on ants. Many projects revolve around the biology of fungus-growing ants, but other social insects such as wild bees, honeybees, and paperwasps are studied as well.

Ecology, Co-Evolution & Genomics of Symbioses: Our research on host-symbiotic coevolution elucidates patterns of ant-microbe co-cladogenesis, symbiont specificity, symbiont choice, genomic interactions, and the engineering of microbial consortia in ant fungiculture and in human agriculture.

Evolution of Conflict & Cooperation: Social insects are particularly suitable for the study of evolution in a social context, such as the study of conflict and cooperation within a colony of social insects, between social parasites and their hosts, or between hosts and their macroparasitic and microbial symbionts.

Tropical Biology: We conduct field research throughout the Neotropics, but primarily at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in the Republic of Panama and at the Centro de Estudos de Insetos Sociais, Rio Claro, SP, Brazil.

Natural History: We are all enthusiastic about the outdoors and ask research questions firmly rooted in the context of the natural history of our study organisms.

2014 McFrederick, Q.S., U.G. Mueller, R.R. James, Interactions between fungi and bacteria influence microbial community structure in the Megachile rotundata larval gut. Proceedings of the Royal Society London B, in press.

2013 Mehdiabadi, N.J., U.G. Mueller, S.G. Brady, T.R. Schultz, Symbiont fidelity and the origin of species in fungus-growing ants. Nature Communications 3: 840.

2012 Mueller, U.G., Symbiont recruitment versus ant-symbiont co-evolution in the attine ant-microbe symbiosis. Current Opinion in Microbiology 15: 269–277.

2011 Mueller, U.G., A.S. Mikheyev, E. Hong, R. Sen, D.L. Warren, S.E. Solomon, H.D. Ishak, M. Cooper, J.L. Miller, K.A. Shaffer, T.E. Juenger, Evolution of col-tolerant fungal symbionts permits winter fungiculture by leafcutter ants at the northern frontier of a tropical ant-fungus symbiosis, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108: 4053-4056.

2011 Mueller, U.G., A.S. Mikheyev, S.E. Solomon, M. Copper, Frontier mutualism: Co-evolutionary patterns at the northern range limit of the leafcutter ant-fungus symbiosis, Proc Roy Soc London B 278: 3050-3059.

2011 Yek, S.-H., U.G. Mueller, The metapleural gland of ants, Biological Reviews 91: 201-224.

2011 Rabeling, C., O. Gonzales, T.R. Schultz, M. Bacci Jr., M.V.B. Garcia, M. Verhaagh, H. Ishak, U.G. Mueller, Cryptic sexual populations account for genetic diversity and ecological success in a widely distributed, parthenogenetic fungus-growing ant, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108: 12366-12371.

2010 Mikheyev, A.S., U.G. Mueller, P. Abbott, Comparative dating of attine ant and lepiotaceous cultivar phylogenies reveals co-evolutionary synchrony and discord, American Naturalist 175: E126-E133.

2010 Klein, B.A., A. Klein, M.K. Wray, U.G. Mueller, T.D. Seeley, Sleep deprivation impairs precision of waggle dance signaling in honey bees, Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 107: 22705-22709.

2012   Fellow, Japan Society for the Promotion of Science

2008   E.O. Wilson Naturalist Award, American Society of Naturalists

2005   W.M. Wheeler Lost-Pines Professorship, UT Austin

2003   Teaching Excellence Award, College of Natural Sciences, UT Austin

2000   CAREER Award, National Science Foundation, USA