Kenneth Ross
Professor of Entomology
Ph.D. (1982) Cornell University
Phone: 706-542-7699

Research Interests
My research interests lie in the areas of population biology, molecular evolutionary genetics, and molecular systematics. I am particularly interested in the genetics and evolution of social insects. I use genetic markers to study the distribution of genetic variation at various hierarchical levels in social insect populations. These data, combined with behavioral and ecological information, are then used to infer properties of the breeding biology and patterns of gene flow at differing scales in the study species. The objective of this work is to generate detailed descriptions of the reproductive biology of social insects that allow me to reconstruct pathways of evolution, including patterns of speciation. More recently, my interests have shifted toward the molecular genetics of behavior, with a special emphasis on the genetic bases of social behavior. I have studied a variety of social insect species including yellowjacket wasps, sphecid wasps, tent caterpillars, and fire ants. Most of my present work focuses on fire ants (genus Solenopsis), a group that presents many fascinating problems in population genetics and evolution, and that is readily studied in the field and laboratory.
  • Ross, K. G., D. Gotzek, M. S. Ascunce, and D. D. Shoemaker. 2010. Species delimitation: a case study in a problematic ant taxon. Systematic Biology 59: 162-184.
  • Gotzek, D. and K. G. Ross. 2009. Current status of a model system: the gene Gp-9 and its association with social organization in fire ants. PLoS ONE 4: e7713.
  • Ross, K. G. and D. D. Shoemaker. 2008. Estimation of the number of founders of an invasive pest insect population: the fire ant Solenopsis invicta in the United States. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B 275: 2231-2240.
  • Wang, J., K. G. Ross, and L. Keller. 2008. Genome-wide expression patterns and the genetic architecture of a fundamental social trait. PLoS Genetics 4(7): e1000127.
  • Gotzek, D. and K. G. Ross. 2008. Experimental conversion of colony social organization in fire ants (Solenopsis invicta): worker genotype manipulation in the absence of queen effects. Journal of Insect Behavior 21: 337-350.
  • Caldera, E. J., K. G. Ross, C. J. DeHeer, and D. D. Shoemaker. 2008. Putative native source of the invasive fire ant Solenopsis invicta in the U.S.A. Biological Invasions 10.1007/s10530-008-9219-0.
  • Giron, D., K. G. Ross, and M. R. Strand. 2007. Presence of soldier larvae determines the outcome of competition in a polyembryonic wasp. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 20: 165-172.
  • Gotzek, D. and K. G. Ross. 2007. Genetic regulation of colony social organization in fire ants: an integrative overview. Quarterly Review of Biology 82: 201-226.
  • Ross, K. G., M. J. B. Krieger, L. Keller, and D. D. Shoemaker. 2007. Genetic variation and structure in native populations of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta: evolutionary and demographic implications. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 92: 541-560.
  • Gotzek, D., D. D. Shoemaker, and K. G. Ross. 2007. Molecular variation at a candidate gene implicated in the regulation of fire ant social behavior. PLoS ONE 2: e1088
  • Pitts, J.P., J.V. McHugh and K.G. Ross. 2005. A cladistic analysis of the fire ants of the Solenopsis saevissima species-group (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zoologica Scripta 34: 493-505.
  • Ross, K.G. and D.D. Shoemaker. 2005. Species delimitation in native South American fire ants. Molecular Ecology 14: 3419-3438.
  • Ahrens, M.E., K.G. Ross and D.D. Shoemaker. 2005. Phylogeographic structure of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta in its native South American range: roles of natural barriers and habitat connectivity. Evolution 59: 1733-1743.
  • Krieger M.J.B. and Ross K.G. 2005. Molecular evolutionary analyses of the odorant-binding protein gene Gp-9 in fire ants and other Solenopsis species. Molecular Biology and Evolution 22: 2090-2103.
  • Krieger, M.J.B. and K.G. Ross. 2003. Molecular evolutionary analyses of mariners and other transposable elements in fire ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Insect Molecular Biology 12: 155-166.
  • Costa, J.T. and K.G. Ross. 2003. Fitness effects of group merging in a social insect. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B 270: 1697-1702.
  • Ross, K.G., M.J.B. Krieger, and D.D. Shoemaker. 2003. Alternative genetic foundations for a key social polymorphism in fire ants. Genetics 165: 1853-1867.
  • Shoemaker, D.D., M. Ahrens, L. Sheill, M. Mescher, L. Keller, and K.G. Ross. 2003. Distribution and prevalence of Wolbachia infections in native populations of the fire ant Solenopsis invicta (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Environmental Entomology 32: 1329-1336.
  • Krieger, M.J.B. and K.G. Ross. 2002. Identification of a major gene regulating complex social behavior. Science 295: 328-332.
  • Ross, K.G. and L. Keller. 2002. Experimental conversion of colony social organization by manipulation of worker genotype composition in fire ants (Solenopsis invicta). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 51: 287-295.
  • Ross, K.G. 2001. Molecular ecology of social behaviour: analyses of breeding systems and genetic structure. Molecular Ecology 10: 265-284.
  • Goodisman, M.A.D., C.J. DeHeer and K.G. Ross. 2000. Unusual behavior of polygyne fire ant queens on nuptial flights. Journal of Insect Behavior 13: 455-468.
  • Shoemaker, D.D., K.G. Ross, L. Keller, E.L. Vargo, and J. H. Werren. 2000. Wolbachia infections in native and introduced populations of fire ants (Solenopsis spp.). Insect Molecular Biology 9: 661-673.
  • "Speciation and Evolution of Fire Ants: An Integrated Population Genetic, Phylogenetic, and Ecological Approach," NSF
  • “Molecular Genetic Basis of Reproduction in Fire Ants,” USDA Hatch Funds