Meet  Derotettix , an obscure and relict lineage that is sister to all other modern cicadas. Photo by  Piotr Lukasik .

Meet Derotettix, an obscure and relict lineage that is sister to all other modern cicadas. Photo by Piotr Lukasik.

13 October 2019

During his forays into Chile and Argentina for cicada field work (mostly trying to understand endosymbiont evolution), Piotr noticed a potentially unusual cicada whose phylogenetic patterns didn't make much sense. Turns out that it is a brand new (and possibly the only) member of a fifth cicada subfamily! Chris Simon and colleagues added a ton more data to this finding, and made it into a great paper, which you can read here.


The peptidoglycan layer of  Moranella  (it is the  coolest  peptidoglycan layer).

The peptidoglycan layer of Moranella (it is the coolest peptidoglycan layer).

3 October 2019

Led by DeAnna, our work showing that the crazy patchwork of endosymbiont genes, native host genes, and host genes resulting from bacteira-to-insect HGT is functional and produces a peptidoglycan layer exclusively at the Moranella periphery has been published in Cell! This was a long time coming, and would not been possible without our amazing collaborators at Caltech, NIH Rocky Mountain Labs, and Sheffield. Many thanks to Viviane Callier at Quanta Magazine and Ruth Williams at The Scientist for their terrific stories covering our work!


Can you spot the tRNAs?

Can you spot the tRNAs?

18 June 2019

Led by JT Van Leuven, our work showing that endosymbiont tRNAs are correctly processed at their 5’ and 3’ ends (despite not encoding all of the tRNA processing machinery on their genomes) was published at mBio!


The tangled web of insects and their gammaproteobacterial partners.

The tangled web of insects and their gammaproteobacterial partners.

3 June 2019

Colin Dale, Bret Boyd, and I wrote a review on bacterial endosymbionts as they go through the processes of birth, aging, and then (sometimes) death, and it was just published in Current Biology! This was a super fun review to write: Colin thinks a lot about symbiont birth, and I (John) think a lot about symbiont old age and death. It was cool to try and merge our ideas.


4 April 2019

John went on Hank Green's SciShow Talk Show and had a blast talking about cicadas. He also did a terrible job handling some crabs.


Patrick Keeling takes beautiful pictures of anemones (left) and corals (right).

Patrick Keeling takes beautiful pictures of anemones (left) and corals (right).

3 April 2019

Tom Richards and John wrote a Nature News & Views about a super cool new paper from Patrick Keeling's lab that describes a very unusual new symbiont in corals.


We are so lucky to collaborate with  Anna Michalik , she is an incredible microscopist.

We are so lucky to collaborate with Anna Michalik, she is an incredible microscopist.

13 November 2018

Led by Matt and Piotr, our paper on the specific cell biological adaptations that cicadas make to changing endosymbiont genome complexity is now out in mBio! This was a fun one, where we tried to bring support from microscopy and modeling to a hypothesis we developed using evolutionary genomics.


Old news ….

23 June 2018 : Matt and Piotr lead a cool project where we studied how exactly cicadas deal with increases in endosymbiont complexity. Read the preprint at bioRxiv!

11 June 2018 : Piotr, Dan, and I were lucky to be part of a collaboration with Yu Matsuura, Takema Fukatsu, and colleagues showing thatHodgkinia has been replaced by Ophiocordyceps fungi in many Japanese cicadas. Read the paper and check out the highlight at the Atlantic by Ed Yong!

27 December 2017 : Congrats to Piotr on the publication of his paper on the multiple origins of lineage splitting in symbionts in Chilean cicadas!

27 November 2017 : Congrats to Filip on the publication of his review on functional horizontal gene transfer from bacteria to eukaryotes in Nature Reviews Microbiology!

9 November 2017 : Congrats to Matt on the publication of his paper describing the genome evolution of symbionts in periodical cicadas in Current Biology!

8 November 2017 : Tim, Dan, and I helped make a movie on our lichen work with Toby and colleagues last year. The film—which was actually made by Andy Johnson, Talia Yuki Moore, Chris A. Johns, and Kate Furby—was the winner of the inaugural International Wildlife Film Festival film lab, was a finalist at the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival, and was featured in National Geographic's Short Film Showcase.

31 October 2017 : Congrats to Dan on the publication of his paper describing the genomics and evolution of ambrosia beetle fungal symbionts in Molecular Ecology!

30 August 2016 : Many thanks to Ed Yong of the Atlantic for his terrific story about our recent PNAS paper.

29 August 2016 : Our work showing multiple endosymbiont replacements in the inter-bacterial symbionts of mealybugs has been published in PNAS! Congratulations to Filip Husnik!

22 July 2016 : Many thanks to Ed Yong of the Atlantic, Steph Yin of the New York Times, Rachel Feltman of the Washington Post, Emily Chung of the CBC, Liz Pennisi of Science, Christopher Intagliata and Jennifer Frazer of Scientific American, Maddie Stone of Gizmodo, and Susan Milius at Science News for covering our recent lichen paper.

21 July 2016 : Led by Toby Spribille, our paper on the discovery of basidiomycete yeasts in macrolichens was published in Science .

16 September 2015 : Congratulations to Piotr, who was just awarded a National Geographic grant to expand our work on on the cicadas of Chile and Argentina! We and our collaborators are off to Santiago in December!

18 August 2015 : John Carey has written a really interesting news piece on endosymbiosis and organelles in the latest issue of PNAS.

18 August 2015 : With Patrick Keeling and Ford Doolittle, our overview of the Sackler Colloquium, Symbiosis becoming permanent, was just published in PNAS.

12 August 2015 : Led by Gordon Bennett, and in collaboration with Nancy Moran, our paper on the evolution of Baumannia in different sharpshooters was just published in GBE.

11 August 2015 : Congratulations to Stephanie Ray Weldon, recent recipient of a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship! Stephanie will be joining the lab in January 2016 from the University of Georgia. Welcome, Stephanie!

18 May 2015 : Many thanks to Ed Yong for his terrific National Geographic piece on our recent PNAS paper.

18 May 2015 : Our work on the crazy 'Hodgkinia genome complex' found in periodical cicadas was just published in PNAS .

16 April 2015 : Congratulations to Piotr on his recent Ecological, Evolutionary and Conservation Genomics Award from the AGA!

26 January 2015 : JT's DDIG was just recommended for funding! Congratulations JT, and thanks to the NSF for the continued support of our work!

31 October 2014 : Science just published a story in the "In Depth" section of the magazine on the recent Sackler Colloquium that was organized by Patrick Keeling, Ford Doolittle, and me. Thanks to Liz Pennisi for making the trip and reporting on the meeting.

6 October 2014 : Led by PI Frank Rosenzweig, the University of Montana is one of seven institutions that were just named as new members of the NASA Astrobiology Institute (NAI). Our lab has one of several five-year projects funded by this grant; we will focus on the evolution and function of proteins encoded by tiny symbiont genomes. Thank you NASA!

3 October 2014 : Led by Gordon Bennett and Nancy Moran, our paper describing the different ways in which one symbiont has co-evolved with another in different species of insects has just been published in mBio.

15 September 2014 : Many thanks to Liz Pennisi for her blurb in Science on our recent Cell paper!

11 September 2014 : We've welcomed two new people to the lab in the last couple of weeks. Piotr Lukasik has just arrived on a two-year postdoctoral fellowship, and Filip Husnik has returned to the lab on a 9-month Fulbright fellowship. Welcome Piotr and Filip!

28 August 2014 : Many thanks to Ed Yong for covering our recent Cell paper on his blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science.

28 August 2014 : Our paper describing a very unusual sympatric speciation event in a cicada endosymbiont has just been published atCell. We also made a "video abstract" for the paper, which can be viewed at the Cell Press YouTube channel.

24 July 2014 : Patrick Keeling and I wrote a Dispatch for Current Biology highlighting a super cool new paper from Atsushi Nakabachi and colleagues, which describes import of an aphid-encoded protein into Buchnera.

17 July 2014 : Together with Ford Doolittle (Dalhousie) and Patrick Keeling (UBC), I am co-organizing a Sackler colloquium called, "Symbioses becoming permanent: The origins and evolutionary trajectories of organelles," sponsored by the National Academy of Sciences and CIFAR. If you are interested in the evolution of organelles or endosymbionts, please consider signing up! It's going to be a small meeting, and there are deep discounts available for students.

26 March 2014 : Our paper from last year describing the complicated history of HGT in a mealybug was highlighted at the ASM blog Small Things Considered.

20 February 2014 : Led by Rebecca Duncan and Alex Wilson at Miami, our collaborative work on the evolution of amino acid transporters in sap-feeding insects was just published in Molecular Ecology.

23 August 2013 : Another great piece from Carl Zimmer on a cool new Genome Biology and Evolution paper from Gordon Bennett and Nancy Moran describing the new record holder for the smallest bacterial genome.

8 August 2013 : Congratulations to Filip Husnik, graduate student at the University of South Bohemia, CZ, who has been awarded a fellowship from the Fulbright Foreign Student Program to come to the lab for the 2014 academic year!

5 August 2013 : My Dispatch on a cool new paper from Atsushi Nakabachi and colleagues has just been published in Current Biology.

July 2013 : Our recent Cell paper has been highlighted by Nicole Gerardo in Cell Host & Microbe and at Nature Reviews Microbiology.

11 July 2013 : Our paper on the population genomics of recently introduced invasive species was just published in Molecular Ecology

4 July 2013 : Our recent Cell paper has been highlighted in the New York Times. Thanks to Carl Zimmer for his interest in our work.

1 July 2013 : The lab welcomes two new members this summer. Matt Campbell arrives as a new OBE graduate student, and Mariah Meyer as a UM undergrad research assistant. Welcome Matt and Mariah! [Read more about the people in the group]

25 June 2013 : Our recent Cell paper has been highlighted at National Geographic, the LA Times, and Simon Science News. Thanks to Ed Yong, Brad Balukjian, and Emily Singer for their interest in our work.

20 June 2013 : Our paper describing extensive bacteria-to-insect HGT in mealybugs was just published in Cell! [See all of the McCutcheon lab publications]

8 April 2013 : Dan was just awarded an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship! Congrats Dan! [Read more about the people in the group]

1 January 2013 : Our work on cicada endosymbionts has been funded by a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation. [Read more about our research]

6 December 2012 : Toby's proposal on lichen genomics was funded by the Austrian Science Foundation. He'll continue on as a post-doc in the lab, joint with the University of Graz. [Read more about the people in the group]

1 October 2012 : Toby has had three papers published in the last few months, including one in Molecular Ecology. [See all of the McCutcheon lab publications]

27 September 2012 : John was just appointed an Associate Member of the CIFAR Program in Integrated Microbial Biodiversity. [Read more about the people in the group]

27 August 2012 : Dan Vanderpool joins the lab as a PhD student. Welcome, Dan! [Read more about the people in the group]

14 June 12 : Two new NSF-REU supported summer students arrive: Welcome Emily (UM) and Dionna (Northeastern U). [Read more about the people in the group]

6 June 12 : The lab welcomes Russ Meister (UConn) for a short stay this summer to work on cicada symbionts. [Read more about the people in the group].

14 February 12 : Kelly Nelson was awarded an HHMI-MILES research fellowship for 2012. [Read more about the people in the group].

1 January 12 : Our review on small genomes was just published in Nature Reviews Microbiology. [Read the article].

2 December 11 : Toby Spribille joins the lab as a postdoctoral fellow. [Read more about the people in the group].

23 November 11 : Our paper on the surprising AT mutational bias in Hodgkinia has just been published at Genome Biology and Evolution. [Read the article].

2 October 11 : Our Current Biology paper on the mealybug symbionts has been highlighted in Science, Nature, Scientific American, io9, and Small Things Considered. [Read the article].