Joseph Felsenstein is Professor in the Departments of Genome Sciences and Biology and Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Computer Science and Statistics at the University of Washington in Seattle. He is best known for his work on phylogenetic inference, and is the author of Inferring Phylogenies, and principal author and distributor of the package of phylogenetic inference programs called PHYLIP, and is currently serving as the President of the Society for Molecular Biology & Evolution.

You can reach Joe at

James McInerney is the principle investigator of the Bioinformatics and Molecular Evolution Laboratories at NUI Maynooth. He was one of the founding directors of the Irish Centre for High End Computing, an Associate Editor of Molecular Biology and Evolution, Biology Direct, and Journal of Experimental Zoology, and is currently serving as the Secretary for the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

You can reach James at

Juliette de Meaux is interested in the molecular basis of Darwinian adaptation in natural plant systems. Her works combines the approaches of population, quantitative and molecular genetics to dissect the underpinning of adaptive changes. She completed her PhD at AgroParisTech, under the supervision of Prof. Claire Neema and studied the molecular basis of host-pathogen coevolution in natural populations of common bean. She then spent her Postdoc time in the lab of Prof. Tom Mitchell-Olds at the Max Planck Institute of Chemical Ecology in Jena and worked on the evolution of cis-regulatory DNA. Since 2005, she runs her own lab, first at the Max Planck Institute of Plant Breeding in Cologne and then at the University of Münster. In January 2015, she relocated her lab at the University of Cologne. She is currently serving as the Treasurer for the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution.

You can reach Juliette at


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The Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution is an international organization whose goals are to provide facilities for association and communication among molecular evolutionists and to further the goals of molecular evolution, as well as its practitioners and teachers. In order to accomplish these goals, the Society publishes two peer-reviewed journals, Molecular Biology and Evolution and Genome Biology and Evolution. The Society sponsors an annual meeting, as well as smaller satellite meetings or workshop on important, focused, and timely topics. It also confers honors and awards to students and researchers.

SMBE 2017

On behalf of the organising committee it is our pleasure to invite you to attend SMBE 2017 - the annual meeting of the Society for Molecular Biology and Evolution. SMBE 2017 will be held from the 2nd-6th of July at the JW Marriott in Austin, TX, USA. The meeting - including plenary talks, symposia presentations, the Walter Fitch symposium, and poster sessions - will showcase the latest research in genomics, population genetics, and molecular biology and evolution. Social activities will include an opening reception, mixers with each poster session, and a conference dinner. We’re looking forward to seeing you in Austin this summer!

More information can be found HERE

Featured News and Updates

SMBE 2016 Awards Announcement

Congratulations to the inaugural winners of the SMBE Junior Award for Independent Research, SMBE Margaret Dayhoff Award, SMBE Community Service Award and the SMBE Lifetime Contribution Award!

2016 SMBE Allan Wilson Award

Joanna Kelley

Dr. Joanna Kelley is an Assistant Professor in the School of Biological Sciences at Washington State University. She runs an evolutionary genomics laboratory that focuses on high-throughput genome sequencing and computational approaches to analyzing big data in genomics. Her research focuses on understanding the genomic basis for adaptation to extreme environments. She received her B.A. in mathematics and biology with honors from Brown University, working with Johanna Schmitt. She earned her Ph.D. in Genome Sciences from the University of Washington under Willie Swanson. As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Chicago in Human Genetics with Molly Przeworski, she received a National Institutes of Health Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award. Dr. Kelley was also a postdoctoral researcher in the Department of Genetics at Stanford University with Carlos Bustamante.

2016 SMBE Margaret Dayhoff Award
Stephen I. Wright  

Stephen I. Wright is an Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Population Genomics at the University of Toronto. He completed an M.Sc. at McGill University with Dan Schoen and Thomas Bureau, his PhD with Deborah Charlesworth at the University of Edinburgh, and a postdoctoral fellowship with Brandon Gaut at the University of California Irvine.  His research interests focus on plant population and evolutionary genomics, with a particular interest in the genomic consequences of mating system evolution, quantification of genome-wide positive and negative selection, and the evolution of transposable elements.

2016 SMBE Community Service Award Winner
Bill Martin

As a scientist, Bill Martin has furthered our understanding of life's early history with contributions to the study of physiology, gene transfer and endosymbiosis in microbial evolution. He has served SMBE for well over a decade. As the Editor-in-Chief of
MBE 2003-2008, he fostered growth of the journal and the society while helping to usher SMBE into the age of electronic publishing. In 2009 he founded SMBE’s second journal, Genome Biology and Evolution, which was the first society-owned, open-access journal in the biological sciences.  He has served as the Editor-in-Chief of GBE since its inception, overseeing the journal’s contribution to the society and its benefit to the field. Bill is a fellow in the American Academy for Microbiology, a member of EMBO, and has been Chair of the Institute of Molecular Evolution at the University of Dusseldorf since 1999.  

2016 SMBE Motoo Kimura Lifetime Contribution Award Winner
Nancy Moran

Nancy Moran’s long-term interests are in the evolution of biological complexity, such as that apparent in complex life histories, in intimate interactions among species and in species-diversity of clades and communities. Her research has focused extensively on symbiosis, particularly between multicellular hosts and microbes.  In her storied career, she has demonstrated ancient coevolution between aphids and their plant hosts, and has characterized mutualistic symbiotic interactions between aphids and Buchnera bacteria and between other insect and symbiont clades. She found that these mutualisms are ancient, dating to the origins of major insect clades, and that the long term vertical transmission of the bacterial symbionts has caused extreme genome degradation and shrinkage. Her ongoing projects include phylogenetic and genomic studies of previously unstudied insect symbioses, experiments on gene expression of symbionts within hosts, computational reconstruction of the content and arrangement of genes in bacterial ancestors, and experimental investigations of coevolved gut communities within social bees. She has previously been awarded a MacArthur Fellowship and the International Prize for Biology, and has been a member of that National Academy of the Sciences since 2004.  She is currently the Leslie Surginer Endowed Professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Texas, Austin.  

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MBE | Most Read

Molecular Biology and Evolution


Fat-Rich Diets and Adaptation Among Indigenous Siberian Populations




Mate Selection Found to Evolve from Response to Flower Odors





















Implications for Genetic Diversity and the Use of Mitochondrial DNA as a Molecular Marker



two successive rounds in the ancestor of vertebrates, and a third one specific to teleost fishes. Biased loss of most duplicates enriched the genome for specific genes, such as slow evolving genes, but this selective retention process is not well understood. To understand what drives the long-term preservation of duplicate genes, we characterized duplicated genes in terms of their expression patterns. We used a new method of expression enrichment analysis, TopAnat, applied to in situ hybridization data from thousands of genes from zebrafish and mouse. We showed that the presence of expression in the nervous system is a good predictor of a higher rate of retention of duplicate genes after whole-genome duplication. Further analyses suggest that purifying selection against the toxic effects of misfolded or misinteracting proteins, which is particularly strong in nonrenewing neural tissues, likely constrains the evolution of coding sequences of nervous system genes, leading indirectly to the preservation of duplicate genes after whole-genome duplication. Whole-genome duplications thus greatly contributed to the expansion of the toolkit of genes available for the evolution of profound novelties of the nervous system at the base of the vertebrate radiation.



GBE | Most Read

Genome Biology & Evolution

RAD-Seq Reveals Patterns of Additive Polygenic Variation Caused by Spatially-Varying Selection in the American Eel ( Anguilla rostrata )


The American Eel (Anguilla rostrata) has an exceptional life cycle characterized by panmictic reproduction at the species scale, random dispersal, and selection in a highly heterogeneous habitat extending from subtropical to subarctic latitudes. The genetic consequences of spatially-varying selection in this species have been investigated for decades, revealing subtle clines in allele frequency at a few loci that contrast with complete panmixia on the vast majority of the genome. Because reproduction homogenizes allele frequencies every generation, sampling size, and genomic coverage are critical to reach sufficient power to detect selected loci in this context. Here, we used a total of 710 individuals from 12 sites and 12,098 high-quality single nucleotide polymorphisms to re-evaluate the extent to which local selection affects the spatial distribution of genetic diversity in this species. We used environmental association methods to identify markers under spatially-varying selection, which indicated that selection affects ∼1.5% of the genome. We then evaluated the extent to which candidate markers collectively vary with environmental factors using additive polygenic scores. We found significant correlations between polygenic scores and latitude, longitude and temperature which are consistent with polygenic selection acting against maladapted genotypes in different habitats occupied by eels throughout their range of distribution. Gene functions associated with outlier markers were significantly enriched for the insulin signaling pathway, indicating that the trade-offs inherent to occupying such a large distribution range involve the regulation of metabolism. Overall, this study highlights the potential of the additive polygenic scores approach in detecting selective effects in a complex environment.

Unravelling the Genetic Diversity among Cassava Bemisia tabaci Whiteflies Using NextRAD Sequencing


Bemisia tabaci threatens production of cassava in Africa through vectoring viruses that cause cassava mosaic disease (CMD) and cassava brown streak disease (CBSD). B. tabaci sampled from cassava in eight countries in Africa were genotyped using NextRAD sequencing, and their phylogeny and population genetics were investigated using the resultant single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers. SNP marker data and short sequences of mitochondrial DNA cytochrome oxidase I (mtCOI) obtained from the same insect were compared. Eight genetically distinct groups were identified based on mtCOI, whereas phylogenetic analysis using SNPs identified six major groups, which were further confirmed by PCA and multidimensional analyses. STRUCTURE analysis identified four ancestral B. tabaci populations that have contributed alleles to the six SNP-based groups. Significant gene flows were detected between several of the six SNP-based groups. Evidence of gene flow was strongest for SNP-based groups occurring in central Africa. Comparison of the mtCOI and SNP identities of sampled insects provided a strong indication that hybrid populations are emerging in parts of Africa recently affected by the severe CMD pandemic. This study reveals that mtCOI is not an effective marker at distinguishing cassava-colonizing B. tabaci haplogroups, and that more robust SNP-based multilocus markers should be developed. Significant gene flows between populations could lead to the emergence of haplogroups that might alter the dynamics of cassava virus spread and disease severity in Africa. Continuous monitoring of genetic compositions of whitefly populations should be an essential component in efforts to combat cassava viruses in Africa.

Legionella Becoming a Mutualist: Adaptive Processes Shaping the Genome of Symbiont in the Louse Polyplax serrata


Legionellaceae are intracellular bacteria known as important human pathogens. In the environment, they are mainly found in biofilms associated with amoebas. In contrast to the gammaproteobacterial family Enterobacteriaceae, which established a broad spectrum of symbioses with many insect taxa, the only instance of legionella-like symbiont has been reported from lice of the genus Polyplax. Here, we sequenced the complete genome of this symbiont and compared its main characteristics to other Legionella species and insect symbionts. Based on rigorous multigene phylogenetic analyses, we confirm this bacterium as a member of the genus Legionella and propose the name Candidatus Legionella polyplacis, sp.n. We show that the genome of Ca. Legionella polyplacis underwent massive degeneration, including considerable size reduction (529.746 bp, 484 protein coding genes) and a severe decrease in GC content (23%). We identify several possible constraints underlying the evolution of this bacterium. On one hand, Ca. Legionella polyplacis and the louse symbionts Riesia and Puchtella experienced convergent evolution, perhaps due to adaptation to similar hosts. On the other hand, some metabolic differences are likely to reflect different phylogenetic positions of the symbionts and hence availability of particular metabolic function in the ancestor. This is exemplified by different arrangements of thiamine metabolism in Ca. Legionella polyplacis and Riesia. Finally, horizontal gene transfer is shown to play a significant role in the adaptive and diversification process. Particularly, we show that Ca. L. polyplacis horizontally acquired a complete biotin operon (bioADCHFB) that likely assisted this bacterium when becoming an obligate mutualist.

The Diversification of Zika Virus: Are There Two Distinct Lineages?


Zika virus (ZIKV) has caused explosive epidemics in the Pacific and the Americas, posing a serious threat to public health. Conventional opinion advocates that ZIKV evolved into two distinct lineages, namely, African and Asian. Descendants of this latter lineage dispersed globally causing major epidemics. However, based on shared amino acid replacements and phylogenetic analyses, it was recently contentiously proposed that the Asian lineage was a direct descendant of the African lineage. To address this contentious issue, we reconstructed a phylogenetic tree of ZIKV using the method based on shared amino acid replacements and found that ZIKV evolved into two distinct lineages. This supports the conventional phylogenetic divergence pattern of ZIKV. Evidence of recombination and sequencing errors was identified among the large collection of ZIKV. As such problematic sequences could confound the phylogenetic analyses, they were removed. Bayesian phylogenetic analyses using the improved sequence data enabled estimates for the divergence time in the past of the African and Asian lineages of ∼180 years ago. Moreover, we found that the Asian lineage viruses did not evolve at an elevated rate. Our findings provide additional support for the conventional opinion that the Asian lineage of ZIKV diverged from the African lineage.