Biology Department
Roman Yukilevich

Roman Yukilevich

Job Title
Associate Professor of Biological Sciences
Integrated Science and Engineering Complex (ISEC) 327

Research interests

I am an evolutionary biologist interested in the origin of species, known as speciation. Particular topics of interest include:
evolutionary genetics of complex traits, animal behavior, sexual selection, and the evolutionary history of genetic and behavioral divergence.

Teaching interests

Diversity of Life: Heredity, Evolution and Ecology (BIO 103), Human Evolution (BIO 310), Evolutionary Biology (BIO 350) and Senior Seminar (BIO 487)


Student authors italicized

  • Yukilevich, R., 2021. Reproductive character displacement drives diversification of male courtship songs in Drosophila. American Naturalist.
  • Yukilevich, R., and E. K. Peterson. (2019) Evolution of male and female mating preferences in Drosophila speciation. Evolution 73-9: 1759–1773.
  • Yukilevich, R., Maroja, L.S., Nguyen, K., Hussain, S. and Kumaran, P. (2018) Rapid sexual and genomic isolation in sympatric Drosophila without reproductive character displacement. Ecology and Evolution 8(5):2852-2867.
  • Yukilevich, R., T. Harvey, S. Nguyen, J. Kehlbeck, and A. Park. (2016) The search for causal traits of speciation: Divergent female mate preferences target male courtship song, not pheromones, in Drosophila athabasca species complex. Evolution 70(3):526-542.
  • Yukilevich, R. and F. Aoki. (2016) Is cascade reinforcement likely when sympatric and allopatric populations exchange migrants? Current Zoology 62(2):155-167. Invited paper for Special Issue on Cascade Reinforcement.
  • Yukilevich, R. (2013) Tropics accelerate the evolution of hybrid male sterility in Drosophila. Evolution 67(6): 1805–1814.
  • Yukilevich, R. (2012) Asymmetrical patterns of speciation uniquely support reinforcement in Drosophila. Evolution 66(5): 1430-1446.

Additional Research Description

Biologists typically define species based on the criteria of reproductive isolation. Such isolation prevents gene flow between species and thus makes them genetically and phenotypically distinct over time. My goal is to understand how this happens. To achieve this, I study natural populations that have recently undergone divergence, allows us to infer how speciation occurred in nature in the past.

I have generally used the model organism fruit flies (Drosophila) to study the process of speciation. I am interested in studying how different populations of the same species evolve sexual or behavioral isolation, where individuals show preference for mating with their own type. This includes studying geographical variation in both male sexual cues and female mating preferences between populations and sexual selection within populations. Here at Union, my recent focus has been on a young local forest fruit fly species complex (Drosophila athabasca). Students and I study sexual and ecological traits and behaviors of individuals in the field and in the lab across populations and species and perform artificial selection and other evolution experiments in the lab. In addition, I have used population genetics to understand gene flow patterns and evolutionary history of these speciation events. I have also developed new theoretical models of speciation and have compiled data across many studies to study broad patterns of evolution across many organisms.

You can find more information on this project at:

Additional media

Academic credentials

B.S., University of Illinois at Chicago; Ph.D., Stony Brook University