Ohio University

Molly R. Morris

Molly Morris, portrait
Life Science Building 243
Ohio Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies (OCEES)

Recent News


Ph.D., Indiana University

Courses Taught

  • BIOS 3300 Principles of Evolution
  • BIOS 4930/5930 Animal Behavior
  • BIOS 6930 Behavioral Ecology

Research Interests

My research interests are in sexual selection, variation in female mate preferences, and the evolution of alternative reproductive strategies. In my laboratory, we are interested in the evolutionary processes that both constrain and drive biological diversity. We examine the evolution of diversity both within and across species of Xiphophorus fishes. These small livebearing fish, native to freshwater streams in Mexico, present a diversity of behaviors and morphologies that are ideal for examining the evolution of behavioral plasticity, female mate preferences, nutritional programming, maternal effects, and the evolution of alternative reproductive strategies. We observe behavior in the field as well as in the laboratory, incorporating molecular techniques to conduct paternity analyses and examine gene expression profiles.


I received a B.A. from Earlham College in 1978 and a Ph.D. from Indiana University in 1987. After a postdoctoral fellowship at University of Texas, Austin, I held faculty positions at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore and Montgomery College, before accepting my current position in the Biological Sciences Department at Ohio University. I am a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and have served as Secretary and President for the society. I also served as Associate Editor for the journal Behaviour and Editor for the journal Animal Behavior.

Representative Publications

Morris MR, Friebertshauser RJ, Zupi M, Liotta MN, Dunn G, Kleinas N and Ríos-Cardenas O (2018) Feeding Rates in the Swordtail Fish Xiphophorus multilineatus: A Model System for Genetic Variation in Nutritional Programming. Zebrafish 2018 https://doi.org/10.1089/zeb.2018.1624

Ríos-Cardenas O, Bono L, Morris MR (2018) Frequency-dependent selection and fluctuations around an equilibrium for alternative reproductive tactics in a swordtail. Animal Behaviour 140, 19-28.

Lu, Y., Klimovich, C., Robeson, K., Boswell, W., Rios-Cardenas, O., Walter, R.B., Morris, M.R. (2017) Transcriptome assembly and candidate genes involved in nutritional programming in the swordtail fish Xiphophorus multilineatus. PeerJ 5:e3275; DOI 10.7717/peerj.3275.

Morris, M.R., Ludwar L.C., Swingle, E., Mamo, M.N., and Shubrook, J.H. (2016) “A new method to assess asymmetry in fingerprints can be used as an early indicator of type 2 diabetes mellitus” Diabetes Science and Technology.

Morris, M.R., R.J. Friebertshauser, O. Rios-Cardenas, M.N. Liotta and J.K. Abbott (2016) Selection on growth rates across alternative reproductive tactics in the swordtail Xiphophorus multilineatus. Evolutionary Ecology 30, 519-533.

D’Amore, D.M., Rios-Cardenas, O. and Morris, M.R. (2015) Maternal investment influences development of a behavioral syndrome in swordtail fish, Xiphophorus multilineatus. Animal Behaviour 103, 147-151.

Morris, M. R., Goedert, D., Abbott J. K., Robinson D. M. and Rios-Cardenas O. (2013) Intralocus tactical conflict and the evolution of alternative reproductive tactics. Advances in the Study of Behavior 45, 447-47858.

Morris, M. R. Rios-Cardenas, O. S. Lyons, M. S. Tudor, and Bono, L. (2012). Fluctuating asymmetry indicates optimization of growth rate over developmental stability. Functional Ecology, 26, 23-731.