This is an abbreviated CV; for a more complete version, contact me.:

Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology,
Biological Sciences West
The University of Arizona
Tucson, AZ 85721
Phone: 520-626-6513
Fax: 520-621-9190
Web site:


B.A. 1959 Indiana University

Ph.D. 1963 Indiana University

Instructor, Assistant Professor, Department of Zoology, and member of interdepartmental Genetics Program, University of California at Berkeley, 1964 - 70

Associate Professor to Professor, Department of Molecular Genetics, The Ohio State University, 1970 - 97

Member of Interdepartmental Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology Program, The Ohio State University, 1970 - 86

Chairman of the Graduate Interdisciplinary Program in Genetics, The University of Arizona, 1997 - 2003; Member, 1997-present

Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, 1997-present


Dartmouth College, University College London, University of Colorado, Duke University, University of Arizona (twice)


Sigma Xi Faculty Research Award, The Ohio State University, 1972

Hargitt Fellow in Cell Biology, Duke University, 1977 - 78

President-Elect, President, and Past President, American Genetic Association, 1991 - 93; Council Member and member of Long-Range Planning Committee, 1988-91.

Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (elected 1997)

PUBLICATIONS (last five years and selected earlier papers, out of more than 75, excluding abstracts and book reviews; for a more complete list, see

Birky, C. William, Jr., and John J. Gilbert, 1971 Parthenogenesis in rotifers: the control of sexual and asexual reproduction. Am. Zoologist 11:245-266.

Birky, C. William, Jr, Takeo Maruyama, and Paul Fuerst, 1983 An approach to population and evolutionary genetic theory for genes in mitochondria and chloroplasts, and some results. Genetics 103:513-527.

Birky, C. William, Jr, 1983 Relaxed cellular controls and organelle heredity. Science 222:468-475.

Birky, C. William, Jr, and J. Bruce Walsh, 1988 Effects of linkage on rates of molecular evolution. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA 85:6414-6418.

Birky, C. William, Jr., 1995 Uniparental inheritance of mitochondria and chloroplast genes: mechanisms and evolution. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. UISA 92:11331-11338.

Birky, C. William, Jr., 1996 Heterozygosity, heteromorphy, and phylogenetic trees in asexual eukaryotes. Genetics 144:427-437.

Birky, C. William, Jr., 1999 An even broader perspective on the evolution of sex. J. Evol. Biol. 12:1013-1016.

Birky, C. William, Jr. 2001 The inheritance of genes in mitochondria and chloroplasts: Laws, mechanisms, and models. Annu. Rev. Genet. 35:125-148.

Vernon, Dawne, Robin Gutell, Jaime Cannone, Robert Rumpf, and C. William Birky, Jr., 2001. Accelerated evolution of functional plastid rRNA and elongation factor genes due to reduced protein synthetic load after the loss of photosynthesis in the chlorophyte alga Polytoma. Mol. Biol. Evol. 18:1810-1822.

Birky, C. William, Jr., 2002 "Non-Mendelian Mitochondrial Inheritance: Evolutionary Origin and Consequences." Encyclopedia of the Human Genome, entry 1129, Nature Publishing Group.

Birky, C. William, Jr., 2002 "Extrnuclear Inheritance." In Robinson, Richard (ed), Genetics. New York, MacMillan Reference USA.

Lizhi Yu, C.. William Birky, Jr., and Rodney D. Adam, 2002 "The two nuclei of Giardia each have complete copies of the genome as demonstrated by fluorescence in situ hybridization. Eukaryotic Cell 1:191-199.

Maughan, H., C. W. Birky,Jr, W. L. Nicholson, W. D. Rosenzweig, and R. H. Vreeland, 2002. "The paradox of the 'ancient' bacterium which contains 'modern' protein-coding genes. Mol. Biol. Evol. 19:1637-1639.

Barraclough, Timothy G., C. William Birky, Jr., and Austin Burt, 2003 "Diversification in sexual and asexual organisms." Evolution 57:2166-2172.

Birky, C. William, Jr. (2004) Bdelloid rotifers revisited." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 101:2651-2652.

Birky, C. William, Jr., Cynthia Wolf, Heather Maughan, Linnea Herbertson, Elena Henry (2005) Speciation and selection without sex. Hydrobiologia 546:29-45.

Birky, C. William, Jr. (2005) Sex: Is Giardia doing it in the dark? Current Biology 15:R56-58

Maughan, Heather., Victoria Callicotte, Adam Hancock, C. William Birky, Jr., Wayne L. Nicholson, Joanna Masel (2006) The population genetics of phenotypic deterioration in experimental populations of Bacillus subtilis. Evolution 60:686-695.

Birky, C. William, Jr. (2006) Barcoded DNA: Application to rotifer phylogeny, evolution, and systematics. Hydrobiologia (accepted)

Birky, C. William, Jr., Timothy G. Barraclough (2006) Asexual Speciation. In Lost Sex. The Evolutionary Biology of Parthenogenesis. Peter Van Dijk, Koen Martens, Isa Schön (eds.) Springer. (accepted).


Birky, C.. William, Jr.. "Speciation without sex." First PARTNER Workshop on Ancient Asexuals and Time Scales, Wageningen, Netherlands, November 20, 2003.

Birky, C. William, Jr. "Comparing diversity in asexuals and sexuals." Third PARTNER Workshop on Diversity in Asexuals: Patterns and P:rocesses, Muenster, Germany, October 7, 2004.

Birky, C. William, Jr. "Comparing genetic diversity in asexuals and sexuals.: Fourth PARTNER Workshop and Linnean Society meeting on The Paradox of Asexualigty: An Evaluation, London, England, October 24, 2005.


I have been interested in asexual reproduction since my student days in Tracy Sonneborn's laboratory, where he studied asexual and sexual reproduction in Paramecium. I worked on the genetics and development of monogonont rotifers, including the role of environmental factors in controlling asexual vs. sexual reproduction (reviewed in Birky and Gilbert 1971). In the 1970s and 1980s, I investigated the inheritance of genes in mitochondria and chloroplasts, including uniparental inheritance which makes the genomes of these organelles effectively asexual (Birky 1983, 1995, 2001), and developed the first realistic population genetic theory for mitochondrial and chloroplast genes (e.g. Birky, Maruyama, and Fuerst 1983). In the 1990s, my students and I studied the evolutionary consequences of the loss of photosynthesis in chlorophyte algae.

Since about 1995 my main research has focused on the evolutionary consequences of the loss of sexual reproduction. For experimental subjects, I returned to rotifers, this time using the strictly asexual bdelloid rotifers. Theoretical studies included the demonstration that the loss of recombination affects the long-term rate of evolution only for selected mutations, and does not affect the rate of neutral evolution (Birky and Walsh 1988). I provided the first theoretical treatment of the Meselson effect and the circumstances under which it will be seen (Birky 1996; see also Birky 2004). I discussed the roles of individual, group, and species-level selection on the maintenance of sexual reproduction (Birky 1999). I also began a study of speciation and natural selection in bdelloid rotifers. I used population genetic to show why and how asexual organisms are expected to speciate. Tim Barraclough and Austin Burt of Imperial College London used coalescent theory to arrive at the same conclusions and we published this jointly (Barraclough, Birky, and Burt 2003). My students and I used phylogenetic analyses of gene sequences to detect speciation in the bdelloids; for this we developed a new method for using very small samples to identify populations evolving independently of each other because they are adapted to different niches and/or physically separated. We also used the sequence data to show that mitochondrial genes show no detectable accumulation of detrimental mutations in bdelloid rotifers. A preliminary account of these studies has been published (Birky et al. 2005). I am currently writing a paper pointing out that the theory of Barraclough et al. is actually a new species concept, which I call the Evolutionary Genetic Species Concept, and our method for detecting such species from small samples is a new species criterion. Our work has led to the identification of several new species of the bdelloid genus Abrochtha, in collaboration with Claudia Ricci, Giulio Melone, and Diego Fontaneto of the University of Milan. Recently submitted is a chapter (with Tim Barraclough) on species in parthenogenetic organisms for a new book on parthenogenesis stimulated by the PARTNER workshops in Europe. A review of DNA barcoding as applied to rotifers has been accepted for publication in Hydrobiologia in a special volume devoted to the Rotifera XI symposium in Mexico City. My former graduate student Heather Maughan and I showed that Ka/Ks ratios of mitochondrial genes are essentially the same in the sexual monogonont rotifers as they are in the asexual bdelloid rotifers; in other words, detrimental mutations accumulate to the same extent with and without sex. Thus we are unable to demonstrate a significant effect of Muller's ratchet in bdelloids.

Heather has completed a wide-ranging study of the effects of relaxed selection on sporulation and autotrophy in laboratory populations of Bacillus subtilis (Maughan et al. 2006 and in preparation). We also showed that the Bacillus clone isolated from a Permian salt bed is not actually an ancient organism (Maughan et al. 2002).

See for more on current research and downloadable copies of papers.


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