Damhnait McHugh

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Damhnait McHugh

Raab Family Chair and Professor of Biology

Department/Office Information

225 Ho Science Center
  • W 11:00am - 12:30pm (225 Ho Science Center)
  • R 2:40pm - 4:10pm (225 Ho Science Center)


  • BS University College, Galway, Ireland 1983
  • MS University of Victoria, Canada 1987
  • PhD U.C. Santa Cruz 1994
  • Metazoan phylogeny
  • Life history
  • Evolution of marine invertebrates
  • Evolution of development
  • Deep-sea hot vent biogeography
  • Molecular and morphological systematics of invertebrate groups
  • Phylogeography
  • Cryptic diversity
  • Invasion ecology

Assistant Professor, Harvard University

  • Evolutionary biology
  • Invertebrate biology
  • Marine biology
  • Invasion biology

My teaching interests span a wide variety of courses that share a common thread of evolution (see list below). Like Theodosius Dobzhansky, I think that “nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

In all my courses, I like to highlight the relevance of biology in our everyday lives, whether it’s understanding the source and spread of invasive species, using phylogenetic analysis to evaluate biodiversity, or debating how ocean acidification will affect marine organisms. I also really enjoy working with students in the lab.

  • BIOL 101 Biodiversity
  • BIOL 181/181L Evolution, Ecology, and Diversity
  • BIOL201/201L Evolution
  • BIOL206/206L Organismal Biology
  • BIOL 304 Invertebrate Biology
  • BIOL 340 Marine Biology
  • BIOL 478 Animal Systematics, Phylogeny, and Development
  • CORE 109S Genes and Human Fate
  • CORE 110S Discovering Biology: Invasion Ecology

Chang, C-H., Johnston, M., Görres, J., Dávalos, A., McHugh, D., Szlavecz, K. (2017) Co-invasion of three Asian earthworms, Metaphire hilgendorfi, Amynthas agrestis and Amynthas tokioensis in the USA. Biological Invasions 20: 843-848

Taboada, S., Bas, M., Leiva, C., Schult, N., McHugh, D. (2017) Cryptic species and colonization processes in Ophryotrocha (Annelida, Dorvilleidae) inhabiting vertebrate remains in the shallow-water Mediterranean Sea. Zoologica Scripta 46: 611-624 doi 10.111/zsc 12239

Schult, N., Pittenger, K.*, Davalos, S.*, McHugh, D. (2016) Phylogeographic analysis of invasive Asian earthworms of the genus Amynthas in the northeast United States. Invertebrate Biology 135: 314-327 doi.org/10.111/ivb.12145

Knott K.E and McHugh, D. (2012) Introduction to Symposium: Poecilogony--A window on larval evolutionary transitions in marine invertebratesIntegrative and Comparative Biology 51: 120-127; doi: 10.1093/icb/ics037

Zakas, C., Schult, N., McHugh, D., Jones, K.L., Wares, J.P. (2012) Transcriptome analysis and SNP development can resolve population differentiation of Streblospio benedicti, a developmentally dimorphic marine annelid. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31613. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031613

Pernet, B. and McHugh, D. (2010) Evolutionary changes in the timing of gut morphogenesis in larvae of the marine annelid Streblospio benedicti. Evolution & Development 12: 618-627

Struck, T.H., Schult, N., Kusen, T., Hickman, E., Bleidorn, C., McHugh, D., and Halanych, K.M. (2007) Annelid phylogeny and the status of Sipuncula and Echiura. BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 757–63 Highly Accessed

Bleidorn, C., Eeckhaut, I., Podsiadlowski, L., Schult, N., McHugh, D., Halanych, K.M., Milinkovitch, M.C. and Tiedemann, R. (2007) Mitochondrial genome and nuclear sequence data support Myzostomida as part of the annelid radiation. Molecular Biology and Evolution 24(8): 1690–1701

Knowles, J.D., Wenink, E., Schult, N., Tunnicliffe, V., and McHugh, D. (2005) Molecular analyses indicate gene flow among populations of Paralvinella pandorae, a polychaete annelid endemic to hydrothermal vents of the northeast Pacific. Marine Ecology 26: 216–222

McHugh, D. (2005) Molecular systematics of polychaetes (Annelida).  Hydrobiologia 535/536: 309–318

McHugh, D. and Fong, P.P. (2002) Do life history traits account for diversity of polychaete annelids? Invertebrate Biology 121: 325 – 338

Halanych, K.M., Dahlgren, T. and McHugh, D. (2002) Unsegmented annelids? Possible origins of four Lophotrochozoan worm taxa. Integrative and Comparative Biology 42: 678 – 684

McHugh, D.  (2000) Molecular phylogeny of the Annelida.  Canadian Journal of Zoology 78: 1873–1884

Eeckhout, I., McHugh, D., Mardulyn, P., Tiedemann, R., Monteyne, D., Jangoux, M., and Milinkovitch, M.C. (2000) Myzostomida: a link between trochozoans and flatworms?  Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 267: 1383–1392 

McHugh, D.  (1999) Phylogeny of the Annelida: Siddall et al. (1998) rebutted. Cladistics 15: 85–89

Westheide, W., McHugh, D., Purschke, G., and Rouse, G. (1999) Systematization of the Annelida: different approaches.  Hydrobiologia 402: 291–307

McHugh, D. (1998) Deciphering metazoan phylogeny: The need for additional molecular data. American Zoologist 38: 859–866

McHugh, D. and Halanych, K. (1998) Introduction to the symposium. Evolutionary relationships of metazoan phyla: Advances, problems, and approaches. American Zoologist  38: 813–817

Tunnicliffe, V., MacArthur, A., and McHugh, D. (1998) A biogeographical perspective of the deep-sea hydrothermal vent fauna. Advances in Marine Biology 34: 353–442

McHugh, D. and Rouse, G. (1998) Life history evolution of marine invertebrates: new views from phylogenetic systematics.  Trends in Ecology and Evolution 13: 182–186

McHugh, D. (1997) Molecular evidence that echiurans and pogonophorans are derived annelids. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. 94: 8006–8009

McHugh, D. (1995) Phylogenetic analysis of the Amphitritinae (Annelida: Polychaeta: Terebellidae)  Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 114: 405–429

McHugh, D.  (1995) Unusual sperm morphology in a deep–sea hydrothermal–vent polychaete, Paralvinella pandorae (Alvinellidae).  Invertebrate Biology 114: 161–168

McHugh, D.  and Tunnicliffe, V. (1994) Ecology and reproductive biology of the hydrothermal vent polychaete, Amphisamytha galapagensis Zottoli (Ampharetidae).  Marine Ecology Progress Series 106: 111–120

Rouse, G. and McHugh, D. (1994) Ultrastructure of spermiogenesis and spermatozoa in Ramex californiensisand Nicolea zostericola (Terebellidae: Polychaeta).  Ophelia 39: 225–239

McHugh, D. (1993) A comparative study of reproduction and development in the polychaete family Terebellidae.  Biological Bulletin 185: 153–167

McHugh, D. (1989) Population structure and reproductive biology of Paralvinella pandorae Desbruyères and Laubier and Paralvinella palmiformis Desbruyères and Laubier, two sympatric hydrothermal vent polychaetes.  Marine Biology 103: 95–106

Published Abstracts, Encyclopedia Chapters

Schult, N. and McHugh, D. (2012) Streblospio benedicti (Spionidae, Annelida) as a model organism for the study of larval evolutionary transitions.  Integrative and Comparative Biology 52: S3-1.5 doi:10.1093/icb/ics078

Pernet, B., McHugh, D. (2010) Differences in the timing of development of feeding structures and the acquisition of feeding ability between small-egg and large-egg larvae of Streblospio benedicti (Annelida, Spionidae) Integrative and Comparative Biology 50: 31.10

McHugh, D., Pernet, B., Schult, N. (2009) Poecilogony as a window on larval evolution: Comparative analyses of gut development in Streblospio benedicti (Annelida, Spionidae) Integrative and Comparative Biology 49: 722

McHugh, D. (2004) Phylogenetic analyses of annelid relationships using nuclear coding genesIntegrative and Comparative Biology 44: 601

Knowles, J.D.*, Wenink, E.*, Ortolano, R.*, Rekhi, N.*, Hock, A.*, Tunnicliffe, V., McHugh, D. (2003). Phylogeographic analysis of Paralvinella pandorae, a polychaete annelid endemic to hydrothermal vents of the NE Pacific.  Integrative and Comparative Biology 43: 869

McHugh, D. (2001) Molecular phylogenetic analyses indicate a rapid radiation of polychaete annelids.American Zoologist 41: 1520

Halanych, K.M., McHugh, D., Dahlgren, T.G.  (2000)  Evidence that some lesser known “phyla” are annelids.  American Zoologist 40: 1040

McHugh, D. (2000) Molecular phylogeny of the Annelida and insights into the evolution of morphological characters.  Bulletin of Marine Science 67: 669

McHugh, D. (1999) Annelida. In Encyclopedia of Reproduction (E. Knobil and J.D. Neill, Eds.). Academic Press, pp. 219–223

McHugh, D.  (1998) Evolution of larval developmental modes in terebellidan and sabellidan polychaete annelids. American Zoologist 38: 138A

McHugh, D.  (1991) A comparative study of life history patterns in terebellid polychaetes.  American Zoologist31: 146A

McHugh, D. and Fong, P.P. (1994) Why do a few polychaete families account for so many polychaete genera? Mémoires du Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle 162:1994

McHugh, D. and Fong, P.P. (1991) The association between taxonomic diversity and life history traits in the Polychaeta.  American Zoologist 31: 30A

McHugh, D.  (1988) Fine structure of the aberrant sperm of Paralvinella pandorae, a hot vent polychaete.  American Zoologist 28: 889A

2018 fall: Director, Colgate University National University of Singapore Exchange, Singapore

2014 - 2017: Director, Division of Natural Sciences & Mathematics, Colgate University

2015 - : Raab Family Chair in Biology, Colgate University 

2009 - 2014: Director, Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute, Colgate University

2012 spring: Director, Colgate University Wales Study Group, Cardiff University, UK

2011 - : Editorial Board, Journal of the Marine Biological Association, UK 

2010 - 2011: Chair, Department of Biology, Colgate University

2005 - 2008: Chair, Department of Biology, Colgate University

2003 - 2006: Associate Editor, Evolution

2001 - 2003: Editor, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution

1998 - present: Museum Associate, Department of Invertebrate Zoology, Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University

1994 - 1996: NSF/Sloan Postdoctoral Fellow in Molecular Evolution, Section of Ecology and Systematics, Cornell University. Advisor: Richard G. Harrison

1993: Predoctoral Fellow, Department of Invertebrate Zoology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Advisor: Kristian Fauchald

1987 - 1988: Editorial Assistant, Canadian Journal of Zoology, Victoria, Canada

  • NSF-Sloan Postdoctoral Fellowship (1994–1998)
  • NSF–DEB Systematic Biology award (1998–2001)
  • NSF-RCSE award (1997); NSF-REU Supplement (1999)
  • NSF-DBI-MUE award (1999); NSF-BE: Genome-enabled Environmental Science and Engineering award (2001–2007)
  • Colgate Research Council Associate Professor Leave award (2005)
  • G. Kirk Raab '59 Chair in Biology (2006–2009)
  • Colgate Research Council, Picker Research Fellowship (2007–2008)
  • Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute award (2008-2010)
  • NSF-DEB Assembling the Tree of Life award (2011–2015)
  • Picker Interdisciplinary Science Institute award (2016-2018)