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Ulrich G Mueller

Department of Integrative Biology

William Morton Wheeler-Lost Pines Professorship (Holder)


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

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 organisms.

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 arthropods such as wild bees, honeybees, and social spiders 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.





2022 Mueller, U.G., T.A. Linksvayer. Microbiome breeding: Conceptual and practical issues. Trends in Microbiology 30: 997-1011.

2021 Mueller, U.G., T.E. Juenger, M.R. Kardish, A.L. Carlson, K.M. Burns, J.A. Edwards, C.C. Smith, C.-C. Fang, D.L. Des Marais. 2021. Artificial selection on microbiomes to breed microbiomes that confer salt tolerance to plants. mSystems 6: e01125-21.

2019  Smith, C.C., J. Weber, A.S. Mikheyev, F. Roces, M. Bollazzi, K. Kellner, J.N. Seal, U.G. Mueller. Landscape genomics of an obligate mutualism: concordant and discordant population structures between the leafcutter-ant Atta texana and its two main fungal symbiont types.  Molecular Ecology 28: 2831–2845.

2018  Mueller, U.G., M.R. Kardish, H.D. Ishak, A.M. Wright, S.E. Solomon, S.M. Bruschi, A.L. Carlson, M. Bacci Jr. Phylogenetic patterns of ant-fungus associations indicate that farming strategies, not only a superior fungal cultivar, explain the ecological success of leafcutter ants. Molecular Ecology 27: 2414–2434.

2017  Mueller, U.G., H.D. Ishak, S.M. Bruschi, C.C. Smith, et al. Biogeography of mutualistic fungi cultivated by leafcutter ants. Molecular Ecology 26: 6921–6937.

2017  Smith, C.C., R.B. Srygley, F. Healy, K. Swaminath, U.G. Mueller. Spatial structure of the Mormon cricket gut microbiome and its predicted contribution to nutrition and immune function. Frontiers in Microbiology 8: 801.

2015  Mueller, U.G., J.L. Sachs. Engineering microbiomes to improve plant and animal health. Trends in Microbiology 23: 606–617.

2015  Smith, C., U.G. Mueller. Sexual transmission of beneficial microbes. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 30: 438–440.

2015  Kardish, M.R., U.G. Mueller, S. Amador-Vargas, E.I. Dietrich, R. Ma, B. Barrett, C.C. Fang. Blind trust in unblinded observation in Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 3: 51.

2014 McFrederick, Q.S., U.G. Mueller, R.R. James. 2014. Interactions between fungi and bacteria influence microbial community structure in the Megachile rotundata larval gut. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 281: 20132653.

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, et al, 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.

2019   NSF OPUS Award

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