Nadia Ayoub Professor of Biology

Nadia Ayoub

Howe 415

Joined W&L in 2009.


B.S. Ecology, University of Georgia, 1998

Ph.D. Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Tennessee, 2004

Post-doctoral Researcher, University of California, Riverside, 2005-2009

NIH NRSA Post-doctoral Fellow, University of California, Riverside, 2007-2009


I am broadly interested in how diversity at the molecular level translates into diversity at the organismal level.  My research combines tools from molecular biology, phylogenetics, and natural history to investigate diverse questions including speciation, biogeography, symbiotic bacterial transfer, and adaptive protein evolution.  Recently, I have focused on the evolution of spider silks, which are spectacularly diverse in function and mechanical properties.  An individual spider, such as the black widow, can spin up to seven functionally distinct fibers and thus represents a microcosm of the evolutionary process.  Current projects include describing the entire suite of genes needed for silk synthesis in the black widow spider and closely related cobweb weavers and developing phylogenetic markers for spider systematics.


Evolution (BIOL 340)

Genetics (BIOL 220)

Genetics Lab (BIOL 221)

Research Questions in Genomics (BIOL 323)

Foundations of Modern Biology (BIOL 111)

Genetic Engineering and Society (BIOL 150)

Selected Publications

Vienneau-Hathaway, J.M., Brassfield, E.R., Lane, A.K., Collin, M.A., Correa-Garhwal, S.M., Clarke, T.H., Garb, J.E. Hayashi, C.Y., Ayoub, N. A. (2017). Duplication and concerted evolution of MiSp-encoding genes underlie the material properties of minor ampullate silks of cobweb weaving spiders. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 17, 78. Available from:

Clarke, T. H., J. E. Garb, C. Y. Hayashi, P. Arensburger, N. A. Ayoub. (2015) Spider transcriptomes identify ancient large-scale gene duplication event potentially important in silk gland evolution. Genome Biology and Evolution. doi:10.1093/gbe/evv110

Bhere, K. V., R. A. Haney, N. A. Ayoub, J. E. Garb. (2014) Gene structure, regulatory control, and evolution of black widow venom latrotoxins. FEBS Letters. DOI: 10.1016/j.febslet.2014.08.034

Clarke, T. H., J. E. Garb, C. Y. Hayashi, R. A. Haney, A. K. Lancaster, S. Corbett, N. A. Ayoub. (2014). Multi-tissue transcriptomics of the black widow spider reveals expansions, co-options, and functional processes of the silk gland gene toolkit. BMC Genomics. 15, 365.

Haney, R. A., N. A. Ayoub, T. H. Clarke, C. Y. Hayashi, J. E. Garb. (2014) Dramatic expansion of the black widow toxin arsenal uncovered by multi-tissue transcriptomics and venom proteomics. BMC Genomics. 15, 366.

Chaw, R. C., Y. Zhao, J. Wei, N. A. Ayoub, R. Allen, K. Atrushi, C. Y. Hayashi. (2014). Intragenic homogenization and multiple copies of prey-wrapping silk genes in Argiope garden spiders. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 14, 31.

Lane, K. A., C. Y. Hayashi, G. B. Whitworth, N. A. Ayoub. (2013). Complex gene expression in the dragline silk producing glands of the Western black widow (Latrodectus hesperus). BMC Genomics. 14, 846.

Starrett, J., M. Hedin, N. A. Ayoub, C. Y. Hayashi. (2013). Hemocyanin gene family evolution in spiders (Araneae), with implications for phylogenetic relationships and divergence times in the infraorder Mygalomorphae. Gene. 524, 175-186.

Ayoub, N. A., J. E. Garb, A. Kuelbs, C. Y. Hayashi. (2013) Ancient properties of spider silks revealed by the complete gene sequence of the prey-wrapping protein (AcSp1). Molecular Biology and Evolution. 30, 589-601.

Zhao, Y., N. A. Ayoub, C. Y. Hayashi. (2010) Cytogenetic mapping of dragline silk genes in the genomes of widow spiders (Araneae, Theridiidae). PLoS ONE. 5, e12804.

Garb, J.E., N. A. Ayoub, C. Y. Hayashi. (2010) Untangling spider silk evolution with spidroin terminal domains. BMC Evolutionary Biology. 10, 243.

Casem, M. L., M. A. Collin, N. A. Ayoub, C. Y. Hayashi. (2010) Silk gene transcripts in the developing tubuliform glands of the Western black widow, Latrodectus hesperus. Journal of Arachnology. 38, 99-103.

Ayoub, N. A., M. R. McGowen, C. Clark, M. Springer, J. Gatesy. (2009). Evolution and phylogenetic utility of the melanocortin-1 receptor gene, MC1R, in Cetartiodactyla. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 25, 277-286.

Ayoub, N. A., C. Y. Hayashi. (2009). Spiders (Araneae). in S. B. Hedges, S. Kumar (eds), Timetree of Life. Oxford University Press. Pp. 255-259.

Ayoub, N. A., C. Y. Hayashi. (2008). Multiple recombining loci encode MaSp1, the primary constituent of dragline silk, in widow spiders (Latrodectus: Theridiidae). Molecular Biology and Evolution 25, 277-286. doi:10.1093/molbev/msm246

Baldo, L., N. A. Ayoub, C. Y. Hayashi, J. A. Russell, J. K. Stahlut, J. H. Werren. (2008). Insight into the routes of Wolbachia invasion: high levels of horizontal transfer in the spider genus Agelenopsis revealed by Wolbachia strain and mitochondrial DNA diversity. Molecular Ecology 17, 557-569. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2007.03608.x

Ayoub, N. A., J. E. Garb, R. M. Tinghitella, M. A. Collin, C. Y. Hayashi. (2007). Blueprint for a high-performance biomaterial: full-length spider dragline silk genes. PLoS One 2, e514. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000514

Ayoub, N. A., J. E. Garb, M. Hedin, C. Y. Hayashi. (2007). Utility of the nuclear protein-coding gene, elongation factor-1 gamma (EF-1γ), for spider systematics, emphasizing family level relationships of tarantulas and their kin (Araneae: Mygalomorphae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 42, 394-409.

Ayoub, N. A., S. E. Riechert, and R. L. Small. (2005). Speciation history of the North American funnel web spiders, Agelenopsis (Araneae: Agelenidae): Phylogenetic inferences at the population-species interface. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 36, 42-57.

Ayoub, N. A. and S. E. Riechert. (2004). Molecular evidence for Pleistocene glacial cycles driving diversification in a North American desert spider, Agelenopsis aperta. Molecular Ecology 13, 3453-3465.

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