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Dean Castillo

Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences

Castillo Photo

B.A. Cornell University

Ph.D. Indiana University



Dean Castillo's Lab Page

Dean Castillo's Google Scholar

 Molecular Biology Program

Speciation, sexual selection, mate choice and behavior, sperm competition


The genetic and neural basis of female mating decisions and speciation


Our lab focuses on how sexual interactions, behavior, and species interactions contribute to species diversity. Speciation remains one of the most important unsolved problems in evolutionary biology because the genetic and neural basis underlying the traits that drive diversification are still largely unknown. Our lab studies the genetic and neural mechanisms that lead to the rapid evolution of complex traits such as female and male mating behaviors. To determine the behavioral basis of these traits we are developing genetic tools in several species of Drosophila and integrating population and molecular genetics with neurobiology experiments.

We can answer fundamental questions in genetics and evolutionary biology by using female and male mating behaviors to study the forces and mechanisms that lead to the rapid evolution of complex behavioral traits. For example, on approach our lab relies on is making mutations in defined genetic backgrounds that show divergent behaviors. Making mutations in multiple strains is allowing us to disentangle how genes with many complex roles and broad expression in the brain contribute to female mate preference. For females to distinguish between potential mates and exhibit mate preference, males must produce reliable signals. We are determining the genetic basis for differences in male courtship signals. In addition we are determining whether neural circuits important for courtship learning and memory allow males to change their courtship behavior across mating interactions. By incorporating natural genetic variation into these studies, we can connect natural genetic variation to phenotypic variation in a predictive framework.


  1. Castillo, DM, and LC Moyle. 2019. Conspecific sperm precedence is reinforced, butpostcopulatory sexual selection weakened in sympatric populations of Drosophila. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 286: 20182535.
  2. Castillo, DM, and LC Moyle. Preprint . Transposable elements that cause dysgenesis also contribute to postzygotic reproductive isolation in the D. virilis clade. bioRxiv 753814; doi:
  3. Castillo, DM, and DA Barbash. 2017. Moving speciation genetics forward: molecular methods build on foundational studies in Drosophila. Genetics 207: 825-842.
  4. Castillo, DM, and LF Delph. 2016. Male-female genotype interactions maintain variation in traits important for sexual interactions and reproductive isolation. Evolution 70:1667-1673.
  5. Castillo, DM, MK Burger, CM Lively, LF Delph. 2015.  Experimental evolution: sexual selection rather than local adaptation leads to reproductive isolation in the nematode Caenorhabditis remanei. Evolution 69:3141-3155.
  6. Castillo, DM and LC Moyle. 2014. Intraspecific sperm competition genes enforce post-mating species barriers in Drosophila. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 28: 20142050.

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Last Updated: 5/5/21