Professor James Cook (Theme Leader - Plants Animals and Interactions)

Professor James Cook is current leader of the Plants, Animals and Interactions research theme.

His research focuses on the ecology and evolution of species interactions, with particular emphasis on insect/plant and insect/microbe interactions. James is particularly interested in how intimate symbiosis influences the ecology and evolution of interacting species.

His main study systems are the classic mutualism between fig trees and fig-pollinating wasps, and the diverse interactions between insects and their endosymbiotic bacteria.

In addition, he is studying how symbioses can be disrupted by environmental changes, such as climate change, invasive species and habitat fragmentation. James is also exploring how these partnerships function in the wider community context of coexisting parasites, predators and competitors.

His work involves a combination of field, laboratory and computational approaches and makes extensive use of molecular methods. Many of his projects involve national and international links with strong collaborators in Australia, Brazil, China, France, UK and USA. James also has wider research interests in animal behaviour, conservation biology and evolutionary genetics.

Areas of research/teaching expertise

Ecology, evolution, symbiosis, coevolution, entomology

Awards and recognition

  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC, UK) College Member 2007-2010
  • Royal Entomological Society Symbiosis Special Interest Group Convenor 2005-2012
  • Reviewing Editorial Board Member, Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 2005-2008
  • NERC Advanced Research Fellow 1998-2003
  • SERC Research Fellow 1993-1995
  • Royal 1851 Commission Research Fellow 1991-1993

Grants/current research projects

  • Psyllid-induced dieback of Grey Box (Eucalyptus moluccana) on the Cumberland Plain
    Co-researchers: Markus Riegler, James Cook, Ben Moore and Paul Rymer
    Funding: Environmental Trust, Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust
    Period: 2013-2015
  • Shopping for tenants: does co-evolutionary addiction and symbiont meltdown leave jumping plant lice in need of new microbial partners?
    Co-researchers: Markus Riegler and James Cook
    Partner/Funding Body: Hermon Slade Foundation
    Period: 2012-2015
  • Accounting for Biodiversity and Carbon in golf courses within the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment area (ABC-golf)
    Co-researchers: Sally Power, Catriona Macdonald, Brajesh Singh and Sabine Nooten
    Partner/Funding Body: Hawkesbury Nepean Catchment Management Authority
    Period: 2013-2015
  • Genomic approaches to multitrophic community evolution
    Co-researchers: GN Stone, K Lohse, M Hickerson, N Barton
    Partner/Funding body: Natural Environment Research Council (UK), Standard Grant
    Period: 2011-2014
  • Rampant karyotype evolution in jack jumper ants
    Co-researchers: LJ Johnson, O Edwards, W Tay, G Zhang, LS Jermiin
    Partner/Funding body: Natural Environment Research Council (UK), Small Grant; CSIRO; Beijing Genomics Instituite
    Period: 2011-2014
  • Developing research around the "Plants for Bugs" platform
    Co-researchers: R Williams, S al Beidh, A Culham, R Cameron
    Partner/Funding body: Technology Strategy Board / Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the Royal Horticultural Society
    Period: 2011-2013
  • Interactions between native and invasive insects
    Collaborators: K Schonrogge, S White
    Partner/Funding body: Natural Environment Research Council (UK) PhD studentship – Ian Townsend
    Period: 2010-2013
  • Cryptic species and insect/plant host specificity
    Partner/Funding body: Natural Environment Research Council (UK) PhD studentship – Clive Darwell
    Period: 2008-2012
  • Ant/plant mutualisms in tropical savannah ecosystems
    Collaborators: GN Stone, J Reinhard
    Partner/Funding body: BBSRC (UK) PhD studentship – Heather Campbell
    Period: 2008-2012

Selected publications

I have authored six book chapters and over 70 research articles, with further details available at ResearcherID: D-6423-2011; URL:

Hall AAG, Johnson SN, Cook JM, Riegler M, (2019) 'High nymphal host density and mortality negatively impact parasitoid complex during an insect herbivore outbreak', Insect Science, vol.26, no.2, pp 351-365

Nooten SS, Schultheiss P, Rowe RC, Facey SL, Cook JM, (2019) 'Habitat complexity affects functional traits and diversity of ant assemblages in urban green spaces (Hymenoptera: Formicidae)', Myrmecological News, vol.29, pp 67-77

Darwell CT, Segar ST, Cook JM, (2018) 'Conserved community structure and simultaneous divergence events in the fig wasps associated with Ficus benjamina in Australia and China', BMC Ecology, vol.18, Article no.13

Finch JTD, Power SA, Welbergen JA, Cook JM, (2018) 'Two's company, three's a crowd: Co-occurring pollinators and parasite species in Breynia oblongifolia (Phyllanthaceae)', BMC Evolutionary Biology, vol.18, no.1, Article no.193

Fromont C, Rymer PD, Riegler M, Cook JM, (2018) 'An ancient and a recent colonization of islands by an Australian sap-feeding insect', Journal of Biogeography, vol.45, no.10, pp 2389-2399

Kremer JMM, Nooten SS, Cook JM, Ryalls JMW, Barton CVM, Johnson SN, (2018) 'Elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations promote ant tending of aphids', Journal of Animal Ecology, vol.87, no.5, pp 1475-1483

Morgan EJ, Sutton TL, Darwell CT, Cook JM, (2018) 'Restructuring of a mutualism following introduction of Australian fig trees and pollinating wasps to Europe and the USA', Biological Invasions, vol.20, no.11, pp 3037-3045

Nooten SS, Schultheiss P, Wright J, Macdonald C, Singh BK, Cook JM, Power SA, (2018) 'What shapes plant and animal diversity on urban golf courses?', Urban Ecosystems, vol.21, no.3, pp 565-576

Segar ST, Mardiastuti A, Wheeler PM, Cook JM, (2018) 'Detecting the elusive cost of parasites on fig seed production', ACTA Oecologica-International Journal of Ecology, vol.90, pp 69-74, Special Issue. SI

Sutton TL, DeGabriel JL, Riegler M, Cook JM, (2018) 'A temperate pollinator with high thermal tolerance is still susceptible to heat events predicted under future climate change', Ecological Entomology, vol.43, no.4, pp 506-512

Taylor GS, Braby MF, Moir ML, Harvey MS, Sands DPA, New TR, Kitching RL, McQuillan PB, Hogendoorn K, Glatz RV, Andren M, Cook JM, Henry SC, Valenzuela I, Weinstein P, (2018) 'Strategic national approach for improving the conservation management of insects and allied invertebrates in Australia', Austral Entomology, vol.57, no.2, pp 124-149

Wang B, Lu M, Cook JM, Yang DR, Dunn DW, Wang RW, (2018) 'Chemical camouflage: a key process in shaping an ant-treehopper and fig-fig wasp mutualistic network', Scientific Reports, vol.8, Article no.1833

Bigot D, Dalmon A, Roy B, Hou CS, Germain M, Romary M, Deng S, Diao QY, Weinert LA, Cook JM, Herniou EA, Gayral P, (2017) 'The discovery of Halictivirus resolves the Sinaivirus phylogeny', Journal of General Virology, vol.98, no.11, pp 2864-2875

Cook JM, Reuter C, Moore JC, West SA, (2017) 'Molecular markers reveal reproductive strategies of non-pollinating fig wasps', Ecological Entomology, vol.42, no.6, pp 689-696

Darwell CT, Cook JM, (2017) 'Cryptic diversity in a fig wasp community-morphologically differentiated species are sympatric but cryptic species are parapatric', Molecular Ecology, vol.26, no.3, pp 937-950

Fromont C, DeGabriel JL, Riegler M, Cook JM, (2017) 'Diversity and specificity of sap-feeding herbivores and their parasitoids on Australian fig trees', Insect Conservation and Diversity, vol.10, no.2, pp 107-119

Fromont C, Riegler M, Cook JM, (2017) 'Relative Abundance and Strain Diversity in the Bacterial Endosymbiont Community of a Sap-Feeding Insect Across Its Native and Introduced Geographic Range', Microbial Ecology, vol.74, no.3, pp 722-734

Hall AAG, Steinbauer MJ, Taylor GS, Johnson SN, Cook JM, Riegler M, (2017) 'Unravelling mummies: cryptic diversity, host specificity, trophic and coevolutionary interactions in psyllid - parasitoid food webs', BMC Evolutionary Biology, vol.17, no.1, pp 1-15

Sutton TL, DeGabriel JL, Riegler M, Cook JM, (2017) 'Local coexistence and genetic isolation of three pollinator species on the same fig tree species', Heredity, vol.118, no.5, pp 486-490

Fromont C, Riegler M, Cook JM, (2016) 'Phylogeographic analyses of bacterial endosymbionts in fig homotomids (Hemiptera: Psylloidea) reveal codiversification of both primary and secondary endosymbionts', FEMS Microbiology Ecology, vol.92, no.12, Article no. fiw205

Hall AA, Morrow JL, Fromont C, Steinbauer MJ, Taylor GS, Johnson SN, Cook JM, Riegler M, (2016) 'Codivergence of the primary bacterial endosymbiont of psyllids versus host switches and replacement of their secondary bacterial endosymbionts', Environmental Microbiology, vol.18, no.8, pp 2591-2603

Sutton TL, Riegler M, Cook JM, (2016) 'One step ahead: A parasitoid disperses farther and forms a wider geographic population than its fig wasp host', Molecular Ecology, vol.25, no.4, pp 882-894

Campbell H, Fellowes MDE, Cook JM, (2015) 'Species diversity and dominance-richness relationships for ground and arboreal ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) assemblages in Namibian desert, saltpan, and savannah', Myrmecological News, vol.21, pp 37-47

Campbell H, Fellowes MDE, Cook JM, (2015) 'The Curious Case of the Camelthorn: Competition, Coexistence, and Nest-Site Limitation in a Multispecies Mutualism', American Naturalist, vol.186, no.6, pp E172-E181

Cook JM, Reuter C, Moore JC, West SA, (2015) 'Fighting in fig wasps: Do males avoid killing brothers or do they never meet them?', Ecological Entomology, vol.40, no.6, pp 741-747

Fromont C, Riegler M, Cook JM, (2015) 'Characterisation of 14 microsatellite markers for the Australian fig psylloid, Mycopsylla fici', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol.63, no.4, pp 233-235

Hall AG, Gherlenda AN, Hasegawa S, Johnson SN, Cook JM, Riegler M, (2015) 'Anatomy of an outbreak: the biology and population dynamics of a Cardiaspina psyllid species in an endangered woodland ecosystem', Agricultural and Forest Entomology,  vol.17, no.3, pp 292-301

Kern P, Cook JM, Kageyama D, Riegler M, (2015) 'Double trouble: Combined action of meiotic drive and Wolbachia feminization in Eurema butterflies', Biology Letters, vol.11, no.5, Article no.20150095

Sutton TL, Reuter C, Riegler M, Cook JM, (2015) 'Characterisation of microsatellite markers for fig-pollinating wasps in the Pleistodontes imperialis species complex', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol.63, no.2, pp 122-126

Darwell CT, al-Beidh S, Cook JM, (2014) 'Molecular species delimitation of a symbiotic fig-pollinating wasp species complex reveals extreme deviation from reciprocal partner specificity', BMC Evolutionary Biology, vol.14, no.1, Article No.189

Segar ST, Dunn DW, Darwell CT, Cook JM, (2014) 'How to be a fig wasp down under: The diversity and structure of an Australian fig wasp community', Acta Oecologica, vol.57, pp 17-27

Wang B, Geng X-Z, Ma L-B, Cook JM, Wang R-W, (2014) 'A trophic cascade induced by predatory ants in a fig-fig wasp mutualism', Journal of Animal Ecology, vol.83, no.5, pp 1149-1157

Campbell H, Fellowes MDE, Cook JM, (2013) 'Arboreal thorn-dwelling ants coexisting on the savannah ant-plant, Vachellia erioloba, use domatia morphology to select nest sites', Insectes Sociaux, vol.60, no.3, pp 373-382

Campbell H, Townsend IR, Fellowes MDE, Cook JM, (2013) 'Thorn-dwelling ants provide antiherbivore defence for camelthorn trees, Vachellia erioloba, in Namibia', African Journal of Ecology, vol.51, no.4, pp 590-598

Segar ST, Pereira RAS, Compton SG, Cook JM, (2013) 'Convergent structure of multitrophic communities over three continents', Ecology Letters, vol.16, no.12, pp 1436-1445

Wang H, Ridley J, Dunn DW, Wang R, Cook JM, Yu DW, (2013) 'Biased oviposition and biased survival together help resolve a fig-wasp conflict', Oikos, vol.122, no.4, pp 533-540

Xiao JH, Yue Z, Jia LY, Yang XH, Niu LH, Wang Z, Zhang P, Sun BF, He SM, Li Z, Xiong TL, Xin W, Gu HF, Wang B, Werren JH, Murphy RW, Wheeler D, Niu LM, Ma GC, Tang T, Bian SN, Wang NX, Yang CY, Wang N, Fu YG, Li WZ, Yi SV, Yang XY, Zhou Q, Lu CX, Xu CY, He LJ, Yu LL, Chen M, Zheng Y, Wang SW, Zhao S, Li YH, Yu YY, Qian XJ, Cai Y, Bian LL, Zhang S, Wang JY, Yin Y, Xiao H, Wang GH, Yu H, Wu WS, Cook JM, Wang J, Huang DW, (2013) 'Obligate mutualism within a host drives the extreme specialization of a fig wasp genome', Genome Biology, vol.14, no.12, Article no.R141

Xiao J-H, Wang N-X, Murphy RW, Cook JM, Jia L-Y, Huang DW, (2012) 'Wolbachia infection and dramatic intraspecific mitochondrial DNA divergence in a fig wasp', Evolution (in press)

Al-Beidh S, Dunn DW, Power SA, Cook JM, (2012) 'Parasites and mutualism function: Measuring enemy-free space in a fig-pollinator symbiosis', Oikos, vol.121, no.11, pp 1833-1839

Cruaud A, Ronsted N, Chantarasuwan B, Chou LS, Clement WL, Couloux A, Cousins B, Genson G, Harrison RD, Hanson PE, Hossaert-Mckey M, Jabbour-Zahab R, Jousselin E, Kerdelhue C, Kjellberg F, Lopez-Vaamonde C, Peebles J, Peng YQ, Pereira RAS, Schramm T, Ubaidillah R, van Noort S, Weiblen GD, Yang DR, Yodpinyanee A, Libeskind-Hadas R, Cook JM, Rasplus JY, Savolainen V, (2012) 'An Extreme Case of Plant-Insect Codiversification: Figs and Fig-Pollinating Wasps', Systematic Biology, vol.61, no.6, pp 1029-1047

Oliver TH, Leather SR, Cook JM, (2012) 'Ant larval demand reduces aphid colony growth rates in an ant-aphid interaction', Insects, vol.3, no.1, pp 120-130

Segar ST, Cook JM, (2012) 'The dominant exploiters of the fig/pollinator mutualism vary across continents, but their costs fall consistently on the male reproductive function of figs', Ecological Entomology, vol.37, no.5, pp 342-349

Segar ST, Lopez-Vaamonde C, Rasplus J-Y, Cook JM, (2012) 'The global phylogeny of the subfamily Sycoryctinae (Pteromalidae): Parasites of an obligate mutualism', Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, vol.65, no.1, pp 116-125

von Zum Hof J, Schonrogge K, Cook JM, Gardner MG, (2012) 'Development of microsatellite markers using 454 sequencing for the rare socially parasitic hoverfly, Microdon mutabilis', Australian Journal of Zoology, vol.60, no.2, pp 108-110

Yang CY, Xiao JH, Niu LM, Ma GC, Cook JM, Bian SN, Fu YG, Huang DW, (2012) 'Chaos of Wolbachia Sequences Inside the Compact Fig Syconia of Ficus benjamina (Ficus: Moraceae)', PLOS ONE, vol.7, no.11, Article Number e48882

Sun X, Xiao JH, Cook JM, Feng G, Huang DW, (2011) 'Comparisons of host mitochondrial, nuclear and endosymbiont bacterial genes reveal cryptic fig wasp species and the effects of Wolbachia on host mtDNA evolution and diversity', BMC Evolutionary Biology, vol.11, p 86

Cook JM, Segar ST, (2010) 'Speciation in fig wasps', Ecological Entomology, vol.35, pp 54-66

Bailey R, Schonrogge K, Cook JM, Melika G, Csoka G, Thuroczy C, Stone GN, (2009) 'Host Niches and Defensive Extended Phenotypes Structure Parasitoid Wasp Communities', PLoS Biol, vol.7, article no. e1000179

Lopez-Vaamonde C, Rasplus JY, Machado C, Weiblen GD, Cook JM, (2009) 'Molecular dating and biogeography of fig-pollinating wasps', Mol. Phylogen. Evol, vol.52, pp 715-726

Stone GN, Hernandez A, Nicholls J, di Pierro E, Pujade J, Melika G, Cook JM, (2009) 'Extreme host plant conservatism during at least 20 million years of host plant pursuit by oak gallwasps', Evolution, vol.63, pp 854-869

Wang RW, Ridley J, Dunn DW, Cook JM, Yu DW, (2009) 'Interference competition and high temperature reduce the 'virulence' of fig wasps and contribute to the stability of a fig-wasp mutualism', Plos One, vol.4, e7802

Dunn DW, Yu DW, Ridley J, Chan R, Segar S, Crozier RH, Cook JM, (2008) 'A role for parasites in stabilising the fig-pollinator mutualism', PLoS Biol, vol.6: e59

Moore JC, Obbard DJ, Reuter C, West SA, Cook JM, (2008) 'Fighting strategies in two species of fig wasp', Animal Behaviour, vol.76, pp 315-322

Oliver TH, Leather SR, Cook JM, (2008) 'Macroevolutionary patterns in the origin of mutualisms involving ants', J. Evol. Biol, vol.21, pp 1597-1608

Ronsted N, Weiblen GD, Savolainen V, Cook JM, (2008) 'Phylogeny, biogeography, and ecology of Ficus section Malvanthera (Moraceae)', Mol. Phylogen. Evol, vol.48, pp 12-22

Haine E, Martin J, Cook JM, (2006) 'Deep mtDNA divergences indicate cryptic species in a fig-pollinating wasp', BMC Evol. Biol, vol.6, p 83

Haine E, Cook JM, (2005) 'Evidence from three genes for horizontal transfer of Wolbachia in Drosophila-parasitoid communities', Ecological Entomology, vol.30, pp 464-472

Haine ER, Cook JM, (2005) 'Convergent incidences of Wolbachia infection in fig wasp communities from two continents', Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B, vol.272, pp 421-429

Ronsted N, Weiblen G, Machado C, Cook JM, Savolainen V, (2005) '60 million years of co-cladogenesis in the fig-pollinator symbiosis', Proc. R. Soc. Lond. B, vol.272, pp 2593–2599

Cook JM, Bean D, Power SA, Dixon DJ, (2004) 'Evolution of a complex coevolved trait: active pollination in a genus of fig wasps', J. Evol. Biol, vol.17, pp 238-246

Cook JM, Rasplus J-Y, (2003) 'Mutualists with attitude: coevolution of fig wasps and figs', Trends Ecol. Evol, vol.18, pp 241-248

Lopez-Vaamonde C, Godfray HCJ, Cook JM, (2003) 'Evolutionary dynamics of host-plant use in a genus of leaf-mining moths', Evolution vol.57, pp 1804-1821

Cook JM, Rokas A, Pagel M, Stone GN, (2002) 'Evolutionary shifts between host oak sections and host-plant organs in Andricus gallwasps', Evolution, vol.56, pp 1821-1830

Stone GN, Cook JM, (1998) 'The structure of cynipid oak galls: patterns in the evolution of an extended phenotype', Proc. Royal Soc. London B, vol.265, pp 979-988

Cook JM, Compton SG, Herre EA, West SA, (1997) 'Alternative mating tactics and extreme male dimorphism in fig wasps', Proc. Royal Soc. London B, vol.264, pp 747-754

Cook JM, Crozier RH, (1995) 'Sex determination and population biology in the hymenoptera', Trends In Ecology & Evolution, vol.10, pp 281-286

Cook JM, (1993) 'Sex determination in the Hymenoptera: a review of models and evidence', Heredity, vol.71, pp 421-435