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Seán Brady, Chair of the Department of Entomology and
Curator of Hymenoptera (Bees & Aculeate Wasps)

  • Phone:   202-633-0997
  • Fax:   202-786-2894
  • E-mail Address:

  • USPS Mailing Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    PO Box 37012, MRC 188
    Washington, DC 20013-7012

  • Shipping Address:
    Smithsonian Institution
    National Museum of Natural History
    10th & Constitution NW
    Washington, DC 20560-0188

  • Education:

    Ph.D. University of California, Davis

Sean Brady and ant nest

Research Interests:

  • Phylogenetics, molecular evolution, systematics, and historical biogeography of Hymenoptera, especially bees and ants; 
  • Coevolutionary patterns and dynamics between Hymenoptera and their symbionts (e.g., other arthropods, fungi, bacteria);
  • Evolution of sociality in insects;
  • Phylogenetic theory and methodology, including applications to large-scale evolutionary questions

My research concentrates on increasing our understanding of the origins, diversification, and molecular evolution of social insects, especially ants and bees.  I am particularly interested in applying comparative approaches that incorporate evidence from systematics, ecology, genetics, and genomics in order to address specific questions in ant and bee evolution.


Brady, Sean G. 2017. Army ant invasions reveal phylo-geographic processes across the Isthmus of Panama.  Molecular ecology, 26(3): 703-705. doi:10.1111/mec.13981

Branstetter, M.G., Danforth, B.N., Pitts, J.P., Faircloth, B.C., Ward, P.S., Buffington, M.L., Gates, M.W., Kula, R.R. and Brady, S.G. 2017. Phylogenomic Insights into the Evolution of Stinging Wasps and the Origins of Ants and Bees.  Current Biology, 27(7): 1019-1025. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2017.03.027

Branstetter, M.G., Ješovnik, A., Sosa-Calvo, J., Lloyd, M.W., Faircloth, B.C., Brady, S.G., and Schultz, T.R. 2017. Dry habitats were crucibles of domestication in the evolution of agriculture in ants. Proceedings of the Royal Society, B. 284: 20170095. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0095

Mulcahy, D.G., Macdonald, K.S., Brady, S.G., Meyer, C., Barker, K., Coddington, J. 2016. Greater than X kb: A quantitative assessment of preservation conditions on genomic DNA quality, and a proposed standard for genome-quality DNA. PeerJ 4: e2528. doi:10.7717/peerj.2528

Ward, P.S., Brady, S.G., Fisher, B.L., Schultz, T.R. 2016. Phylogenetic classifications are informative, stable and pragmatic: the case for monophyletic taxa. Insectes Sociaux 63:489–492. doi:10.1007/s00040-016-0516-9 

Nygaard, S., Hu, H., Li, C., Schiøtt, M., Chen, Z., Yang, Z., Xie, Q., Ma, C., Deng, Y., Dikow, R., Rabeling, C., Nash, D.R., Wcislo, W.T., Brady, S.G., Schultz, T.R., Zhang, G., Boomsma, J.J. 2016. Reciprocal genomic evolution in the ant-fungus agricultural symbiosis. Nature Communications 7:12233. doi:10.1038/ncomms12233

Blaimer, B.B., Lloyd, M., Gillory, W., Brady, S.G. 2016. Sequence capture and phylogenetic utility of genomic ultraconserved elements obtained from pinned insect specimens. PLoS ONE, 11(8): e0161531. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0161531

Blaimer, B.B., LaPolla, J.S., Branstetter, M.G., Lloyd, M.W., Brady, S.G. 2016. Phylogenomics, biogeography and diversification of obligate mealybug-tending ants in the genus Acropyga. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 102: 20–29. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2016.05.030

Blaimer, B.B., Brady, S.G., Schultz, T.R., Lloyd, M.W., Fisher, B.L., Ward, P.S. 2015. Phylogenomic methods outperform traditional multi-locus approaches in resolving deep evolutionary history: a case study of formicine ants. BMC Evolutionary Biology 15:271. doi: 10.1186/s12862-015-0552-5

Smith, C.R., Cahan, S.H., Kemena, C., Brady, S.G., Yang, W., Bornberg-Bauer, E., Eriksson, T., Gadau, J., Helmpkampf, M., Gotzek, D., Miyakawa, M.O., Suarez, A., Mikheyev, A. 2015. How do genomes create novel phenotypes? Insights from the loss of the worker caste in ant social parasites. Molecular Biology and Evolutiondoi:10.1093/molbev/msv165

Menezes, R.S.T., Brady, S.G., Carvalho, A.F., Del Lama, M.A., Costa, M.A. 2015. Molecular phylogeny and historical biogeography of the Neotropical swarm-founding social wasp genus Synoeca (Hymenoptera: Vespidae). PLoS ONE 10(3): e0119151. DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0119151

Faircloth, B.C., Branstetter, M.G., White, N.D. and Brady, S.G. 2015. Target enrichment of ultraconserved elements from arthropods provides a genomic perspective on relationships among Hymenoptera. Molecular Ecology Resourcesdoi:10.1111/1755-0998.12328

Schultz, T.R., Sosa-Calvo, J., Brady, S.G., Lopes, C.T., Mueller, U.G., Bacci, M. & Vasconcelos, H.L. 2015. The Most Relictual Fungus-Farming Ant Species Cultivates the Most Recently Evolved and Highly Domesticated Fungal Symbiont Species. The American Naturalist, 185(5): 693-703. doi:10.1086/680501

Blaimer, B.B., Brady, S.G., Schultz, T.R. and Fisher, B.L. 2015. Functional and phylogenetic approaches reveal the evolution of diversity in a hyper diverse biota. Ecography, doi:10.1111/ecog.01370

Ward, P.S., Brady, S.G., Fisher, B.L. and Schultz, T.R. 2015. The evolution of myrmicine ants: Phylogeny and biogeography of a hyperdiverse ant clade. Systematic Entomology, 40(1): 61-81. doi:10.1111/syen.12090

Buffington, M.L., Perkovsky, E.E. and Brady, S.G. 2014. The Description of Rovnoeucoila tympanomorpha Buffington & Perkovsky, a New Genus and Species of Fossil Eucoiline, with Observations on the Asynchronous Evolution of Diglyphosematini (Hymenoptera: Figitidae: Eucoilinae). Proceedings of the Entomological Society of Washington, 116(3): 243-254. doi:10.4289/0013-8797.116.3.243

Brady, S.G., Fisher, B.L., Schultz, T.R., Ward, P.S. 2014. The rise of the army ants and their relatives: Diversification of the specialized predatory doryline ants. BMC Evolutionary Biology 14:e93. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-14-93

Rightmyer, M.G., Griswold, T., Brady, S.G. 2013. Phylogeny and systematics of the bee genus Osmia (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) with special emphasis on North American Melanosmia: New subgenera, synonymies, and nesting biology revisited.Systematic Entomology, 38(3): 561-576. doi:10.1111/syen.12013

Gibbs, J, Brady, SG, Kanda, K, Danforth, BN. 2012. Phylogeny of halictine bees supports a shared origin of eusociality for Halictus and Lasioglossum (Apoidea: Anthophila: Halictidae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution,65(3): 926-939. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2012.08.013

pdf Gotzek, D, Brady, SG, Kallal, RJ, LaPolla, JS. 2012. The importance of using multiple approaches for identifying emerging invasive species: The case of the Rasberry Crazy Ant in the United States.  PLoS ONE, 7(9): e45314.

Seltmann, KC, Yoder, MJ, Miko, I, Forshage, M, Bertone, MA, Agosti, D, Austin, AD, Balhoff, JP, Borowiec, MK, Brady, SG, Broad, GR, Brothers, DJ, Burks, RA, Buffington, ML, Campbell, HM, Dew, KJ, Ernst, AF, Fernández-Triana, JL, Gates, MW, Gibson, GAP, Jennings, JT, Johnson, NF, Karlsson, D, Kawada, R, Krogmann, L, Kula, RR, Mullins, PL, Ohl, M, Rasmussen, C, Ronquist, F, Schulmeister, S, Sharkey, MJ, Talamas, E, Tucker, E, Vilhelmsen, L, Ward, PS, Wharton, RA, Deans, AR. 2012. A hymenopterist’s guide to the Hymenoptera Anatomy Ontology: utility, clarification, and future directions. Journal of Hymenoptera Research 27:67–88. doi:10.3897/jhr.27.2961

pdf Almeida, EAB, Pie, MR, Brady, SG and Danforth, BN. 2012. Biogeography and diversification of colletid bees (Hymenoptera: Colletidae): emerging patterns from the southern end of the world. Journal of Biogeography, 39(3): 526-544.

Mehdiabadi, NJ, Mueller, UG, Brady, SG, Himler, AG, Schultz, TR. 2012. Symbiont fidelity and the origin of species in fungus-growing ants. Nature Communications, 3 doi:10.1038/ncomms1844

Rinkevich, F.D., Hedtke, S.M., Leichter, C.A., Harris, S.A., Su, C., Brady, S.G., Task, V., Qiu, X., Scott, J.G. 2012. Multiple origins of kdr-type resistance in the house fly, Musca domesticaPLOS ONE, 7(12): e52761. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052761

Buffington, ML, Brady, SG, Morita, SI, van Noort, S. 2012. Divergence estimates and early evolutionary history of Figitidae (Hymenoptera: Cynipoidea). Systematic Entomology, 37:287–304.  

LaPolla, JS, Kallal, RRJ and Brady, SG. 2012. A new ant genus from the Greater Antilles and Central America, Zatania (Hymenoptera: Formicidae), exemplifies the utility of male and molecular character systems. Systematic Entomology, 37(1): 200-214. doi:10.1111/j.1365-3113.2011.00605.x

Brady, SG, Litman, J, & Danforth, BN.  2011. Rooting phylogenies using gene duplications: An empirical example from the bees (Apoidea).  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 60:295-304.pdf

Brady, SG. 2011. Effects of fossil calibration uncertainty on divergence dating of ants and bees.  American Entomologist 57:56-57. pdf

Brady, SG. 2011. Book review: The Leafcutting Ants by B. Hölldobler and E.O. Wilson, Quarterly Review of Biology, 86(3): 236-237.

LaPolla, J.S., Brady, S.G., Shattuck, S.O. 2011. Monograph of Nylanderia (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the World: An introduction to the systematics and biology of the genus.  Zootaxa 3110:1–9. pdf

Droege, S., Rightmyer, M.G., Sheffield, C.S., & Brady, S.G. 2010. New synonymies in the bee genus Nomada from North America (Hymenoptera: Apidae).  Zootaxa 2661:1-32. pdf

Ward, P.S., Brady, S.G., Fisher, B.L., & Schultz, T.R.  2010  Phylogeny and biogeography of dolichoderine ants: Effects of data partitioning and relict taxa on historical inference.  Systematic Biology 59:342-362. pdf

LaPolla, J.S., Brady, S.G., and Shattuck, S.O.  2010.  Designation of a neotype for Paratrechina currens Motschoulsky, 1863. Notulae Naturae 481:1-2.

LaPolla, J.S., Brady, S.G., & Shattuck, S.O.  2010.  Phylogeny and taxonomy of the Prenolepis genus-group of ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Systematic Entomology 35:118-131. pdf

Wernegreen, J.J., Kauppinen, S.N., Brady, S.G., & Ward, P.S.  2009.  One nutritional symbiosis begat another: Phylogenetic evidence that the ant tribe Camponotini acquired Blochmannia by tending sap-feeding insects. BMC Evolutionary Biology 9:292.

Bradley, T.J., Briscoe, A.D., Brady, S,G., Contreras, H.L., Danforth, B.N., Dudley, R., Grimaldi, D., Harrison, J.F., Kaiser, J.A., Merlin, C., Reppert, S.M., VandenBrooks, J.M., & Yanoviak, S.P.  2009.  Episodes in insect evolution.  Integrative and Comparative Biology 49:590-606. pdf

Kozaki, T., Brady, S.G., and Scott, J.G.  2009.  Frequencies and evolution of organophosphate insensitive acetylcholinesterase alleles in laboratory and field populations of the house fly, Musca domestica L.  Pesticide Biochemistry and Physiology 95:6-11. pdf

Brady, S.G., Larkin, L., and Danforth, B.N.  2009.  Bees, ants, and stinging wasps (Aculeata).  Pp. 264–269 in Hedges, S.B., Kumar, S. (eds.)  The Timetree of Life. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ward, P.S. and Brady, S.G.  2009.  Rediscovery of the ant genus Amyrmex Kusnezov (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and its transfer from Dolichoderinae to Leptanilloidinae. Zootaxa 2063:46–54. pdf

Sosa-Calvo, J., Brady, S.G., and Schultz, T.R.  2009.  The gyne of the enigmatic fungus-farming ant species Mycetosoritis explicata.  Journal of Hymenoptera Research 18:113–120. pdf

LaPolla, J.S., Burwell, C., Brady, S.G., and Miller, D.R.  2008.  A new ortheziid (Hemiptera: Coccoidea) from Australia associated with Acropyga myops Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and a key to Australian Ortheziidae.  Zootaxa 1946:55–68. pdf

Schultz, T.R. and Brady, S.G.  2008.  Major evolutionary transitions in ant agriculture.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 105:5435–5440. (Cover article, with accompanying commentary.) pdf

Brady, S.G., Schultz, T.R., Fisher, B.L., and Ward, P.S.  2006.  Evaluating alternative hypotheses for the early evolution and diversification of ants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 103:18172–18177. (Cover article, with accompanying commentary.) pdf

Brady, S.G., Sipes, S., Pearson, A., and Danforth, B.N.  2006.  Recent and simultaneous origins of eusociality in halictid bees.  Proceedings of the Royal Society B 273:1643–1649.

Danforth, B.N., Sipes, S., Fang, J., and Brady, S.G.  2006.  The history of early bee diversification based on five genes plus morphology.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 103:15118–15123. pdf

Rinkevich, F.D., Zhang, L., Hamm, R.L., Brady, S.G., Lazzaro, B.P., and Scott, J.G.  2006.  Frequencies of the pyrethroid resistance alleles of Vssc1 and CYP6D1 in house flies from the eastern United States.  Insect Molecular Biology 15:157–167. pdf

Brady, S.G. and Ward, P.S.  2005.  Morphological phylogeny of army ants and other dorylomorphs (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).  Systematic Entomology 30:593–618. pdf

Ward, P.S., Brady, S.G., Fisher, B.L., and Schultz, T.R.  2005.  Assembling the ant “Tree of Life.”  Myrmecologische Nachrichten 7:87–90. 

Brady, S.G. and Danforth, B.N.  2004.  Recent intron gain in elongation factor-1a of colletid bees (Hymenoptera: Colletidae).  Molecular Biology and Evolution 21:691–696.

Danforth, B.N., Brady, S.G., Sipes, S.D., and Pearson, A.  2004.  Single copy nuclear genes recover Cretaceous age divergences in bees.  Systematic Biology 53:309–326. (Cover article.) pdf

Brady, S.G.  2003.  Evolution of the army ant syndrome: the origin and long-term evolutionary stasis of a complex of behavioral and reproductive adaptations.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 100:6575–6579. pdf

Ward, P.S. and Brady, S.G.  2003.  Phylogeny and biogeography of the ant subfamily Myrmeciinae (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).  Invertebrate Systematics 17:361–386. pdf

Bininda-Emonds, O.R.P.*, Brady, S.G.*, Kim, J., and Sanderson, M.J.  2001. Scaling of accuracy in extremely large phylogenetic trees.  Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing 6:547–558. (*First two authors contributed equally.) pdf

Sanderson, M.J., Wojciechowski, M.F., Hu, J.-M., Sher-Khan, T, and Brady, S.G.  2000.  Error, bias and longbranch attraction in data for two chloroplast photosystem genes in seed plants.  Molecular Biology and Evolution 17:782–797.

Brady, S.G., Gadau, J., and Ward, P.S.  2000.  Systematics of the ant genus Camponotus (Hymenoptera: Formicidae): A preliminary analysis using data from the mitochondrial gene cytochrome oxidase I.  Pp. 131–139 in Austin, A. D., Dowton, M. (eds.)  Hymenoptera. Evolution, biodiversity and biological control.  Collingwood, Victoria: CSIRO Publishing, xi + 468 pp.

Gadau, J., Brady, S.G., and Ward, P.S.  1999.  The systematics, distribution, and ecology of an endemic California Camponotus quercicola (Hymenoptera: Formicidae).  Annals of the Entomological Society of America 92:514–522.

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