Santa Clara University

Biology department
Phone: 408 554-4808
Fax: 408 554-2710
Location: Alumni Science Hall
Room number: Alumni Science 259

Justen B. Whittall

Associate Professor


B.S. 1996 Santa Clara University, Biology, cum laude
M.S. 1999 Oregon State University, Plant Systematics
Ph.D. 2005 University of California Santa Barbara, Plant Evolution
Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of California Davis, Comparative Phylogenetics

My Full CV


  * Bio 22 Introduction to Evolution & Ecology
  * Bio 134 California Plant Diversity L&L
  * Bio 173 Evolution L&L
  * Bio 179 Bioinformatics L&L


My lab is focused on describing macroevolutionary patterns and microevolutionary processes underlying angiosperm diversification. We use modern phylogenetic comparative methods, experimental evolutionary ecology, and quantitative genetics to test evolutionary hypotheses. Some of the guiding questions are:

  * Is evolution predictable? Does it proceed in repeated directions
    across the tree of life?
  * What is the molecular basis for convergent evolution?
  * How does pleiotropy constrain the genes involved in adaptation
    and speciation?

Currently, I am looking for directional trends in flower color evolution, focusing on the most widespread secondary plant pigments, anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are essential for pollinator attraction, yet are constrained by their roles in plant defense, UV protection and other metabolic functions. The six core genes in the linear pathway are conserved across angiosperms allowing for broad comparative studies on the degree of molecular convergence and constraint during plant evolution. I am now using quantitative PCR and full genome microarrays to discern the molecular basis for flower color polymorphisms. When coupled with quantitative field experiments to discern the selective agents, my lab hopes to reveal predictable patterns underlying plant diversification. In answering these questions, I strive to develop creative avenues for undergraduate participation in original research projects.


Whittall, Justen B., J. Syring, M. Parks, J. Buenrostro, C. Dick, A. Liston and
R. Cronn. Finding a (pine) needle in a haystack: chloroplast genome sequence divergence in rare and widespread pines. Molecular Ecology (2010), 19 (Suppl. 1), 100–114.

Brian L. Anacker, Whittall, Justen B., Emma E. Goldberg, and Susan P. Harrison Origins and consequences of Serpentine Endemism in the California Flora.evo2009v2.1.cls.

Elizabeth A. Cooper, Whittall, Justen B.,Scott A. Hodges, Magnus Nordborg.Genetic Variation at Nuclear Loci Fails to Distinguish Two Morphologically Distinct Species of Aquilegia. PLoS ONE January 2010 Volume 5 Issue 1 e8655.

Whittall, Justen B. and Scott A. Hodges. 2007. Pollinator shifts drive increasingly long nectar spurs in columbine flowers. Nature, v. 447, pp. 406-409.

Whittall, Justen B. and Sharon Strauss. 2006. Non-pollinator agents of selection on floral traits. In: Ecology and Evolution of Flowers (Eds. L. Harder and S. Barrett) Oxford University Press, pp.120-138.

Whittall, Justen B.*, Claudia Voelckel*, and Scott A. Hodges. 2006. Convergence, constraint and the role of gene expression during adaptive radiation: Floral anthocyanins in Aquilegia. Molecular Ecology 15: 4645-4657 (* both authors contributed equally).

Kay, Kathleen*, Justen B. Whittall*, and Scott A. Hodges. 2006. A survey of nrITS substitution rates across angiosperms reveals an approximate molecular clock with life history effects. BMC Evolutionary Biology: 6: 36 (* both authors contributed equally).

Whittall, Justen B., Andrew Medina-Marino, Elizabeth A. Zimmer, and Scott A. Hodges. 2006. Generating single-copy nuclear gene data for species-level phylogenies: Further evidence for a rapid radiation in Aquilegia. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 39: 124-134.

Whittall, Justen B., Matthew Carlson, Paul M. Beardsley, Robert J. Meinke and Aaron Liston. 2006. The Mimulus moschatus alliance (Phrymaceae): Molecular and morphological phylogenetics and their conservation implications. Systematic Botany 31(2): 380-397.

Whittall, Justen B., C. Barre Hellequist, Edward Schneider, and Scott A. Hodges. 2004. Cryptic species in an endangered pondweed community (Potamogeton, Potamogetonaceae) revealed by AFLP markers. American Journal of Botany 91 (12): 2022-2029.

Beardsley, Paul M., S. E. Schoenig, Justen B. Whittall, and Richard G. Olmstead. 2004. The radiation of Mimulus in western North America: Systematics, hybridization, chromosomal evolution, cryptic biodiversity, and patterns of rarity. American Journal of Botany 91(3): 474-489.

Hodges, Scott A., Michelle Fulton, Ji Y. Yang, and Justen Whittall. 2004. Verne Grant and evolutionary studies of Aquilegia. New Phytologist 161(1): 113-120.

Whittall, Justen B., C. Barre Hellequist and Edward Schneider. 2004. Monitoring the Little Aguja Pondweed (Potamogeton clystocarpus): Distribution, Morphology and Taxonomic Status in a Diverse Pondweed Community. In: Proceedings from the Texas Rare Plant Symposium (Eds. C. Delmatier and D. Price) US Fish and Wildlife Service, Austin, TX.

Hodges, Scott A., Justen B. Whittall, Michelle Fulton and Ji Yang. 2002. Genetics and floral isolation between Aquilegia formosa and A. pubescens. American Naturalist 159: S51-S60.

Whittall, Justen B., Aaron Liston, Steve D. Gisler, and Robert J. Meinke. 2000. Detecting superimposed nucleotide additivity patterns is a SNAP: an example from Sidalcea (Malvaceae). Plant Biology 2: 211-217.

Linderman, Jon K., Justen B. Whittall, Krisin L. Gosselink, Tommy J. Wang, Venkat R. Mukku, Frank W. Booth, and Richard Grindeland. 1995. Stimulation of myofibrillar protein synthesis in hindlimb suspended rats by resistance exercise and growth hormone. Life Sciences 57: 755-762.

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