Rabeling, Christian

AntWiki: The Ants --- Online
  • Rabeling.jpg
  • Prof. Dr. Christian Rabeling – Head of the new Department of Integrative Taxonomy of Insects at the Institute of Biology at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart (image source: University of Hohenheim, photo by Simone Cappellari Rabeling).

Biogeographical Note

Rabeling Lab homepage


Dr. Rabeling received his Diploma in Biology from the Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen, Germany in 2004. As an undergraduate student he studied abroad for one year at the Universidade de São Paulo in Brazil. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin in 2010 and was awarded a postdoctoral fellowship to study at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History. Christian was elected a Junior Fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows in 2011. In 2014, he accepted a faculty position at the University of Rochester, where he started his laboratory to continue his studies about the evolutionary biology of ants. In 2017, Christian and his lab joined the Social Insect Research Group at Arizona State University.

On July 1, 2022, Prof. Dr. Christian Rabeling was appointed to the newly created professorship for Integrative Taxonomy of Insects at the Institute of Biology at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart (see press release). The professorship forms the core of the "Competence Center Biodiversity and Integrative Taxonomy" of the University and the State Museum of Natural History Stuttgart and will cooperate with working groups in both institutions. The aim is not only to research insect biodiversity and to create innovative courses, but also to promote the transfer of knowledge to society. The professorship is financed by state funds and supported by the Carl Zeiss Foundation.

Research Interests

I am studying the evolutionary genetics of ants and my research integrates evolutionary biology, genetics, taxonomy, and natural history studies. Currently, I am most interested in understanding how social parasitism evolved and how this change in social organization contributes to speciation. To explore this question, I am combining molecular phylogenetic, population genetic and genomic approaches. An integral part of my research is fieldwork and in depth natural history studies, which often lead to new discoveries that are further explored in the laboratory.

Ant Taxonomy

Published papers on the taxonomy of socially parasitic ants, the basal ant lineage Martialis heureka, and the fungus-growing ant genera Acromyrmex, Apterostigma, Cyatta, Mycocepurus, Mycetomoellerius, Paratrachymyrmex, Trachymyrmex, and Xerolitor.


  • Rabeling C, Messer S, Bacci Jr M, Nascimento IC, Lacau S, Delabie JHC. 2019. Acromyrmex fowleri: a new inquiline social parasite species of leaf-cutting ants from tropical South America. Insectes Sociaux 66: 435–351. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00040-019-00705-z
  • Solomon SE, Rabeling C, Sosa-Calvo J, Lopes CT, Mueller UG, Vasconcelos HL, Bacci M, Schultz TR. Molecular phylogenies of Trachymyrmex ants and their fungal cultivars provide insights into the co-evolutionary history of "higher" ant agriculture. Systematic Entomology 44: 939–956. https://doi.org/10.1111/syen.12370
  • Borowiec ML, Rabeling C, Brady SG, Fisher BL, Schultz TR, Ward PS. 2019. Compositional heterogeneity and outgroup choice influence the internal phylogeny of the ants. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 135: 111–121. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2019.01.024
  • Li H, Sosa-Calvo J, Horn H, Pupo MT, Clardy J, Rabeling C, Schultz TR, Currie CR. 2018. Convergent evolution of complex structures for ant-bacterial defensive symbiosis in fungus-farming ants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 115: 10720–10725. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1809332115
  • Gray KW, Cover SP, Johnson RA, Rabeling C. 2018. The dacetine ant Strumigenys arizonica, an apparent obligate commensal of the fungus-growing ant Trachymyrmex arizonensis in the North American Southwest. Insectes Sociaux 65: 401–410. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00040-018-0625-8
  • Matos-Maraví P, Clouse RM, Sarnat EM, Economo EP, LaPolla JS, Borovanska M, Rabeling C, Czekanski-Moir J, Latumahina F, Wilson EO, Janda M. 2018. An ant genus-group (Prenolepis) illuminates the biogeography and drivers of insect diversification in the Indo-Pacific. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 123: 16–25. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ympev.2018.02.007
  • Mueller UG, Ishak HD, Brushi SM, Herman JJ, Smith CC, Solomon SE, Mikheyev AS, Rabeling C, Scott JJ, Cooper M, Rodriguez A, Ortiz A, Brandão CRF, Lattke JE, Pagnocca FC, Rehner SA, Schultz TR, Vasconcelos HL, Adams RMM, Bollazzi M, Clark RM, Himler AG, LaPolla JS, Leal IR, Johnson RA, Roces F, Sosa-Calvo J, Wirth R, Bacci Jr M. 2017. Biogeography of mutualistic fungi cultivated by leafcutter ants. Molecular Ecology 26: 6921–6937. https://doi.org/10.1111/mec.14431
  • Sosa-Calvo J, Jesovnik A, Lopes CT, Rodrigues A, Rabeling C, Bacci Jr. M, Vasconcelos HL, Schultz TR. 2017. Biology of the relict fungus-farming ant Apterostigma megacephala Lattke, including descriptions of the male, gyne, and larva. Insectes Sociaux 64: 329–346. https://doi.org10.1007/s00040-017-0550-2
  • Rabeling C, Sosa-Calvo J, O’Connell LA, Coloma LA, Fernández F. 2016. Lenomyrmex hoelldobleri: a new ant species discovered in the stomach of the dendrobatid poison frog, Oophaga sylvatica (Funkhouser). ZooKeys 618: 79-95. https://doi.org/10.3897/zookeys.618.9692
  • Nygaard S, Hu H, Li C, Schiøtt M, Chen Z, Yang Z, Xie Q, Ma C, Deng Y, Dikow RB, Rabeling C, Nash DR, Wcislo WT, Brady SG, Schultz TR, ZhangG, Boomsma JJ. 2016. Reciprocal genomic evolution in the ant-fungus agricultural symbiosis. Nature Communications 7: 12233. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms12233
  • Economo EP, Sarnat EM, Janda M, Clouse R, Klimov P, Fischer G, Blanchard BD, Ramirez L, Andersen AN, Berman M, Guénard B, Rabeling C, Wilson EO, Knowles LL. 2015. Breaking out of biogeographic modules: range expansion and taxon cycles in Old World Pheidole. Journal of Biogeography 42: 2253–2460. https://doi.org/10.1111/jbi.12592
  • Rabeling C, Schultz TR, Pierce NE, Bacci M. 2014. A social parasite evolved reproductive isolation from its fungus-growing ant host in sympatry. Current Biology 24: 2047-2052. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2014.07.048
  • Sarnat EM, Rabeling C, Economo EP, Wilson EO. 2014. First record of a species from the Pheidole flavens-complex (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) from the southwestern Pacific. BioInvasions Records 3: 301-307. http://doi.org/10.3391/bir.2014.3.4.13
  • Clouse RM, Janda M, Blanchard B, Sharma P, Hoffman BD, Andersen AN, Czekanski-Moir JE, Krushelnycky P, Rabeling C, Wilson EO, Economo EP, Saranat EM, Wheeler WC. 2014. Molecular phylogeny of a widespread ant group reveals waves of dispersal and colonization into and out of the Pacific. Cladistics 31: 424-437. https://doi.org/10.1111/cla.12099
  • Rabeling C, Love CN, Lance SL, Jones KL, Pierce NE, Bacci M. 2014. Development of twenty-one polymorphic microsatellite markers for the fungus-growing ant, Mycocepurus goeldii (Formicidae: Attini), using Illumina paired-end genomic sequencing. Conservation Genetics Resources 6: 739–741. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12686-014-0204-x
  • Masiulionis VE, Rabeling C, De Fine Licht HH, Schultz TR, Bacci Jr. M, Santos Bezerra CM, Pagnocca FC. 2014. A Brazilian population of the asexual fungus-growing ant Mycocepurus smithii (Formicidae, Myrmicinae, Attini) cultivates fungal symbionts with gongylidia-like structures. PLoS ONE 9(8): e103800. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0103800
  • Mueller, U. G.; Dash, D.; Rabeling, C.; Rodrigues, A. 2008. Coevolution between attine ants and actinomycete bacteria: a reevaluation. Evolution 62:2894-2912. [2008-11] PDF 131899
  • Rabeling C, Verhaagh M & Mueller UG. 2006. Behavioral ecology and natural history of Blepharidatta brasiliensis (Formicidae: Blepharidattini). Insectes Sociaux 53: 300-307.