Biological Sciences

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Nathan Isaiah Morehouse

Title: Assistant Professor
Office: 711H Rieveschl Hall
Tel: 513-556-9757

SBBE, visual and behavioral ecology of butterflies and jumping spiders, coevolutionary dynamics of reproductive traits (e.g., male and female reproductive proteins; male coloration and female color vision), nutritional ecology, life history evolution, sexual selection theory, art-science collaborations


  • Ph.D. Biology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, 2009.
  • B.S. Biological Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 2000.

Research Information

Research Interests

Reproduction is a social interface that intertwines the fates of males and females. I study the traits important to this evolutionary interface, from elaborate courtship displays and strong mate preferences to post-copulatory interactions between male and female reproductive proteins. I am interested in understanding 1) the co-evolutionary dynamics that generate diversity in reproductive traits, 2) how natural and sexual selection interact to produce different male and female phenotypes, and 3) how trait expression is shaped by the life histories of individuals.

To understand these fundamental issues, I study butterflies and jumping spiders. This choice is motivated by a lifelong fascination with the lives of these tiny animals, but also supported by their exuberant diversity and experimental tractability. My research group uses techniques from visual ecology, psychophysics, behavioral ecology, evolutionary genetics, nutritional ecology, phylogenetics, and the “omics”. We strive to understand the big picture by focusing on the details. Our goal is to uncover the evolution of underlying mechanisms.

Communicating our results to the public is also an essential part of our scientific practice. We support scientific curiosity and literacy in our local communities through collaborations with local schools, informal educational partners, and via social media. I am particularly interested in art-science collaborations and the novel insights they can provide into the human experience.
Current projects in the lab include:
1) Co-evolution of complex male displays and female visual attention in Habronattus jumping spiders
2) The causes and consequences of repeated evolution of jumping spider color vision
3) Interactions between color vision and depth perception in jumping spider visual ecology
4) Antagonistic and cooperative co-evolution between male and female reproductive proteins in pierid butterflies
5) Pre- and post-copulatory reproductive isolation during incipient speciation in the butterfly Pieris rapae
6) Nutritional ecology and evolution of the life history architecture of P. rapae
More information about these projects and other Morehouse Lab ventures can be found at

Research Support

  • (PI), Morehouse, Nathan, Playing to the Visual Field: Female Gaze, Retinal Specializations, and the Evolution of Complex Male Courtship Displays in Habronattus Jumping Spiders (TRANSFER of NSF award 1557549), National Science Foundation. (IOS-1723948), $580,896.00. 01/01/2017 to 04/30/2019. Status: Active.


Peer-reviewed Publications

  • Morehouse, N.I., Buschbeck, E.K., Zurek, D.B., Steck, M., and Porter, M.L. (2017). Molecular evolution of spider vision: New opportunities, familiar players. Biological Bulletin.
  • Meslin, C., Cherwin, T.S., Plakke, M.S., Small, B.S., Goetz, B.J., Morehouse, N.I., and Clark, N.L. (2017). Structural complexity and molecular heterogeneity of a butterfly ejaculate reflect a complex history of selection. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United State of America, 114 (27), E5406-E5413.
  • Echeverri, S.A., Morehouse, N.I., and Zurek, D.B. (2017). Control of signaling alignment during the dynamic courtship display of a jumping spider. Behavioral Ecology.
  • Limeri, L. B., & Morehouse, N. I. (2016). The evolutionary history of the "alba' polymorphism in the butterfly subfamily Coliadinae (Lepidoptera: Pieridae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 117 (4), 716-724.
  • Taylor, L. A., Amin, Z., Maier, E. B., Byrne, K. J., & Morehouse, N. I. (2016). Flexible color learning in an invertebrate predator: Habronattus jumping spiders can learn to prefer or avoid red during foraging. Behavioral Ecology, 27 (2), 520-529.
  • Plakke, M. S., Deutsch, A. B., Meslin, C., Clark, N. L., & Morehouse, N. I. (2015). Dynamic digestive physiology of a female reproductive organ in a polyandrous butterfly. Journal of Experimental Biology, 218 (10), 1548-1555.
  • Meslin, C., Plakke, M. S., Deutsch, A. B., Small, B. S., Morehouse, N. I., & Clark, N. L. (2015). Digestive organ in the female reproductive tract borrows genes from multiple organ systems to adopt critical functions. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 32 (6), 1567-1580.
  • Zurek, D. B., Cronin, T. W., Taylor, L. A., Byrne, K., Sullivan, M., & Morehouse, N. I. (2015). Spectral filtering enables trichromatic vision in colorful jumping spiders. Current Biology, 25 (10), R403-R404.
  • Snell-Rood, E., Cothran, R., Espeset, A., Jeyasingh, P., Hobbie, S., & Morehouse, N. I. (2015). Life history evolution in the anthropocene: Effects of increasing nutrients on traits and tradeoffs. Evolutionary Applications, 8, 635-649.
  • Morehouse, N. I. (2014). Condition-dependent ornaments, life histories, and the evolving architecture of resource-use. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 54 (4), 591-600.
  • Ligon, R. A., Hicks, M. R., Dolezal, A. G., Butler, M. W., Morehouse, N. I., & Ganesh, T. G. (2014). Using ants, animal behavior, and the learning cycle to investigate scientific processes. American Biology Teacher, 76 (8), 525-534.
  • Limeri, L. B., & Morehouse, N. I. (2014). Sensory limitations and the maintenance of colour polymorphisms: viewing the 'alba' female polymorphism through the visual system of male Colias butterflies. Functional Ecology, 28 (5), 1197-1207.
  • Taylor, L. A., Maier, E. B., Byrne, K. J., Amin, Z., & Morehouse, N. I. (2014). Colour use by tiny predators: Jumping spiders show colour biases during foraging. Animal Behaviour, 90 (2), 149-157.
  • Hua, J., Morehouse, N. I., & Relyea, R. (2013). Pesticide tolerance in amphibians: Induced tolerance in susceptible populations, constitutive tolerance in tolerant populations. Evolutionary Applications, 6 (7), 1028-1040.
  • Morehouse, N. I., Mandon, N., Christides, J. P., Body, M., Bimbard, G., & Casas, J. (2013). Seasonal selection and resource dynamics in a seasonally polyphenic butterfly. Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 26 (1), 175-185.
  • Van Gossum, H., Bots, J., Van Heusden, J., Hammers, M., Huyghe, K., & Morehouse, N. I. (2011). Reflectance spectra and mating patterns support intraspecific mimicry in the colour polymorphic damselfly Ischnura elegans. Evolutionary Ecology, 25 (1), 139-154.
  • Meadows, M. G., Morehouse, N. I., Rutowski, R. L., Douglas, J. M., & McGraw, K. J. (2011). Quantifying iridescent coloration in animals: A method for improving repeatability. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology, 65 (6), 1317-1327.
  • Morehouse, N. I., Nakazawa, T., Booher, C. M., Jeyasingh, P. D., & Hall, M. D. (2010). Sex in a material world: Why the study of sexual reproduction and sex-specific traits should become more nutritionally-explicit. Oikos, 119 (5), 766-778.
  • Morehouse, N. I., & Rutowski, R. L. (2010). In the eyes of the beholders: Female choice and avian predation risk associated with an exaggerated male butterfly color. American Naturalist, 176 (6), 768-784.
  • Morehouse, N. I., & Rutowski, R. L. (2010). Developmental responses to variable diet composition in a butterfly: the role of nitrogen, carbohydrates and genotype. Oikos, 119 (4), 636-645.
  • Lindstedt, C., Morehouse, N. I., Pakkanen, H., Casas, J., Christides, J. P., Kemppainen, K., Lindstrom, L., & Mappes, J. (2010). Characterizing the pigment composition of a variable warning signal of Parasemia plantaginis larvae. Functional Ecology, 24 (4), 759-766.
  • Shawkey, M. D., Morehouse, N. I., & Vukusic, P. (2009). A protean palette: colour materials and mixing in birds and butterflies. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 6 (1578), S221-S231.
  • Morehouse, N. I., & Rutowski, R. L. (2009). Comment on “Floral iridescence, produced by diffraction optics, acts as a cue for animal pollinators”. Science, 325, 1072-d.
  • Meadows, M. G., Butler, M. W., Morehouse, N. I., Taylor, L. A., Toomey, M. B., McGraw, K. J., & Rutowski, R. L. (2009). Iridescence: Views from many angles. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 6, S107-S113.
  • McGraw, K. J., Toomey, M. B., Nolan, P. M., Morehouse, N. I., Massaro, M., & Jouventin, P. (2007). A description of unique fluorescent yellow pigments in penguin feathers. Pigment Cell Research, 20, 301-304.
  • Rutowski, R. L., Macedonia, J. M., Merry, J. W., Morehouse, N. I., Yturralde, K., Taylor-Taft, L., Gaalema, D., Kemp, D. J., & Papke, R. S. (2007). Iridescent ultraviolet signal in the orange sulphur butterfly (Colias eurytheme): Spatial, temporal and spectral properties. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 90 (2), 349-364.
  • Morehouse, N. I., Vukusic, P., & Rutowski, R. (2007). Pterin pigment granules are responsible for both broadband light scattering and wavelength selective absorption in the wing scales of pierid butterflies. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, 274 (1608), 359-366.
  • Merry, J. W., Morehouse, N. I., Yturralde, K., & Rutowski, R. L. (2006). The eyes of a patrolling butterfly: Visual field and eye structure in the Orange Sulphur, Colias eurytheme (Lepidoptera, Pieridae). Journal of Insect Physiology, 52 (3), 240-248.
  • Rutowski, R. L., Macedonia, J. M., Morehouse, N. I., & Taylor-Taft, L. (2005). Pterin pigments amplify iridescent ultraviolet signal in males of the orange sulphur butterfly, Colias eurytheme. Proceedings of the Royal Society B Biological Sciences, 272 (1578), 2329-2335.

Experience & Service

Work Experience

  • 09-2011 to 12-2016, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.
  • 06-2009 to 06-2011, EU Marie Curie International Incoming Postdoctoral Fellow, Institut de Recherche sur la Biologie de l’Insecte, Université de Tours, Tours, France.
  • 08-2006 to 05-2007, Faculty Associate, Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ.