Dr. Rajendhran Rajakumar

Dr. Rajendhran Rajakumar
Dr. Rajendhran Rajakumar
Cross-Appointed Member, Assistant Professor

Gendron Hall, room 371
613-562-5800 ext. 6007


The Rajakumar lab integrates approaches in cell biology, molecular biology, sociobiology, genetics, epigenetics, phylogenetics, fieldwork, and evolutionary biology, in order to address fundamental questions at the interface of ecology, evolution, and developmental biology (Eco-Evo-Devo). The main theme of our lab is: how do environmental factors act on developmental processes, and how does the variation generated by this interaction lead to the evolution of biodiversity observed in nature. The Rajakumar lab works on a range of vertebrate and invertebrate organisms. In particular, we use many species of ants as a ‘model clade’ within a high-resolution comparative framework, to understand how genes and environmental factors interact, and further extend our mechanistic insights by leveraging the classic model organism Drosophila melanogaster. More generally, what are the developmental mechanisms that generate phenotypic variation, do their functions extend into adulthood in a physiological context, and how have they evolved. Furthermore, these developmental mechanisms are highly conserved ancient cellular pathways. Therefore by understanding how these processes change during development, we can expand our knowledge of how variation emerges in both an adaptive evolutionary and a maladaptive disease context.

Selected publications

  • Sanger T, Rajakumar R. (2019). How a growing organismal perspective is adding new depth to integrative studies of morphological evolution. Biological Reviews. 94(1): 184-219.
  • Rajakumar R, Koch S, Couture M, Favé MJ, Lillico-Ouachour A, Chen T*, De Blassis G, Rajakumar A, Ouellette D, Abouheif E. (2018). Social regulation of a rudimentary organ generates complex worker-caste systems in ants. Nature. 562(7728): 574-577.
  • Jia Y, Xu RG, Ren X, Ewen-Campen B, Rajakumar, R., et al. (2018). Next-generation CRISPR/Cas9 transcriptional activation in Drosophila using flySAM. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 115(18), 4719-4724. (2018). Next-generation CRISPR/Cas9 transcriptional activation in Drosophila using flySAM. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 115(18): 4719-4724
  • Armisén D, Rajakumar R, Friedrich M, Benoit JB, Robertson HM, Panfilio KA, et al. (2018). The genome of the water strider Gerris buenoi reveals expansions of gene repertoires associated with adaptations to life on the water. BMC genomics. 19(1): 1-16.
  • Filowitz GL*, Rajakumar R*, O’Shaughnessy KL*, Cohn MJ. (2018). Cartilaginous fishes provide insights into the origin, diversification, and sexually dimorphic expression of vertebrate estrogen receptor genes. Molecular Biology and Evolution. 35(11): 2695-2701. (*Equal Contribution)
  • Alvarado S*, Rajakumar R*, Abouheif E, Szyf M. (2015). Epigenetic variation in the Egfr gene generates quantitative variation in a complex trait in ants. Nature Communications. 6: 6513-6521. (*Equal Contribution)
  • Abouheif E, Favé MJ, Ibarraran-Viniegra, AS, Lesoway M, Rafiqi AM, Rajakumar R. (2014). (2014). Eco-evo-devo: the time has come. In Ecological genomics (pp. 107-125). Springer, Dordrecht.
  • Rajakumar, R, San Mauro, D, Dijkstra, MB, Huang, MH, Wheeler, DE, et al. (2012). Ancestral developmental potential facilitates parallel evolution in ants. Science, 335(6064), 79-82.

Research interests

  • Evolutionary developmental biology
  • Eco-Evo-Devo
  • Developmental Genetics
  • Social insects
  • Epigenetics
  • Developmental plasticity
  • Developmental endocrinology