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Bard College Assistant Professor of Biology Philip Johns Publishes Paper in Prestigious Science Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Eleanor Davis

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Bard College Assistant Professor of Biology Philip Johns published a research paper this week in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). “Nonrelatives Inherit Colony Resources in a Primitive Termite” is available online at

In the article, Johns and Ken Howard, Visiting Scientist at Bard, along with three colleagues from the University of Maryland, Nancy Breisch, Anahi Rivera, and Barbara Thorne, present findings for the dampwood termite, Zootermopsis nevadensis, which shares many attributes with the ancestor to all termites. The research addresses one of the longest standing questions in evolutionary biology, which is why animals cooperate. The most extreme example of cooperative, or “altruistic,” behaviors is in eusocial animals, such as termites, where some colony members are sterile but help colony members to survive and reproduce. The study presents strong evidence that kin selection alone is not responsible for the evolution of eusociality in termites, but that workers help rear siblings on the likelihood that the king or queen of their colony will be killed in a fight between colonies, and the worker can take over as a replacement reproductive individual.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) is one of the world’s most-cited multidisciplinary scientific serials. Since its establishment in 1914, it continues to publish cutting-edge research reports, commentaries, reviews, perspectives, colloquium papers, and actions of the Academy. Coverage in PNAS spans the biological, physical, and social sciences. PNAS is published weekly in print, and daily online in PNAS Early Edition, at PNAS is abstracted and/or indexed in: Index Medicus, PubMed Central, Current Contents, Medline, SPIN, JSTOR, ISI Web of Science, and BIOSIS.

Philip Johns received his doctorate from the University of Chicago. Johns has taught at the University of Maryland, Swarthmore College, Villanova University, and the University of Chicago. He was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the National Institutes of Health Neuroethology Training Program at the University of Maryland, and a Century Graduate Fellow at the University of Chicago. Johns has authored numerous publications and presentations related to evolutionary genetics. Johns has been assistant professor of biology at Bard College from 2007 to the present.


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October 8, 2009

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This event was last updated on 10-09-2009