Department of Biological Sciences

Dodge Hall Rm 375
118 Library Dr
Rochester, MI 48309-4479
(location map)
(248) 370-3550
fax: (248) 370-4225


Fabia Ursula Battistuzzi

Assistant Professor
340 DH
(248) 370-3593
Lab location: 335B DH
Lab phone: (248) 370-2658


  • BIO 342 Genetics Laboratory
  • BIO 387 Evolutionary Biology
  • BIO 445 Principles of Evolutionary Medicine
  • EGB 490 Research Project/Capstone

Research: Tempo and mode of microbial life’s evolution

Life as we know it is astoundingly diverse, resilient, and adaptable to virtually any environment on Earth. Yet, the tempo (chronology) and mode (evolutionary mechanisms) of the evolution that gave rise to billions of species are mostly unknown. The aim of Dr. Battistuzzi's research is to understand when and how species have evolved and investigate the connections between their genetic innovations and variations in environmental conditions. Among all species, microbes span the largest duration of Earth history and are extremely metabolically and ecologically diverse. These characteristics make them a powerful resource to investigate evolutionary mechanisms over long (billions of years) and short (millions of years) timescales while tracing the origin of important ecological innovations such as pathogenicity and the origin of infectious diseases. Main projects in her lab include:

  • Ancient evolution of prokaryotes. Prokaryotes (Bacteria and Archaea) evolve with complex mechanisms that have hindered a clear understanding of their relationships (phylogeny) and time of origin (molecular clocks). The aim of this research project is to improve our understanding of ancient evolution of prokaryotes and its relation to environmental changes at a planetary scale. 

  • Origin and evolution of infectious diseases. Many eukaryotic microbes are pathogenic to humans and other animals causing diseases such as malaria. The antiquity of the origin of these diseases is poorly understood and, consequently, the environmental and ecological circumstances that favored their spread to multiple hosts are highly debated. With this project, I seek to reconstruct the history of microbial pathogens and use this information to investigate their innovations at the genetic level. 

  • Assessment and development of bioinformatics tools. The amount of molecular data available and forthcoming requires a re-evaluation of current bioinformatics tools to assess their applicability to very large datasets, the accuracy of their results, and their computational requirements. The goal of this research project is to produce improved guidelines for the use of bioinformatics tools to address established areas of research and develop new tools to answer the needs arising from a growing community of researchers in evolution.

Each one of these independently developed projects pushes the science of bioinformatics forward while their synergistic effects will lead to a deeper understanding of life’s evolutionary history which is fundamental to understanding current and future changes in the biosphere. 

Selected Publications:

Battistuzzi, F. U., Billing-Ross, P., Murillo, O., Filipski, A., Kumar, S. (2015) A protocol for diagnosing the effect of calibration priors on posterior time estimates: A case study for the cambrian explosion of animal phyla.  Molecular Biology and Evolution doi:10.1093/molbev/msv075.

Tamura, K., Battistuzzi, F. U., Billing-Ross, P., Murillo, O., Filipski, A., Kumar, S. (2012)  Estimating divergence time in large molecular phylogenies.  Proceeding of the Nation Academy of Sciences USA 109: 19333-19338.

Kumar, S., Filipski, A.J., Battistuzzi, F.U., Kosakovsky Pond, S.L., Tamura, K. (2012)  Statistics and truth in phylogenomics. Molecular Biology and Evolution 29: 457-472. 

M.A. Pacheco*, F.U. Battistuzzi*, R.E. Junge, O.E. Cornejo, C.V. Williams, G. Snounou, L. Jones-Engel, A. Escalante. (2011) Timing the origin of human malaria: the lemur puzzle.  BMC Evolutionary Biology 11: 187. (* co-first authors)

F.U. Battistuzzi, A. Filipski, S.B. Hedges, S. Kumar. (2010) Performance of relaxed clock methods in estimating evolutionary divergence times and their credibility intervals.  Molecular Biology and Evolution 27: 1289-1300.

F.U. Battistuzzi, S.B. Hedges. (2009) A major clade of prokaryotes with ancient adaptations to life on land.  Molecular Biology and Evolution 26: 335-343.

F.U. Battistuzzi, A. Feijao, S.B. Hedges. (2004) A genomic timescale of prokaryote evolution: insights into the origin of methanogenesis, phototrophy, and the colonization of land.  BMC Evolutionary Biology 4: 44.