Allan Larson

Allan Larson

​Professor of Biology

contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
    CB 1137
    One Brookings Drive
    St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

​Allan Larson's research combines natural history and molecular biology to evaluate patterns and processes of evolution at multiple levels of biological complexity.

Allan Larson is director of undergraduate studies in biology. His main interests are in evolutionary biology, genetics, and the histories of these disciplines. Published work applies molecular population genetics and phylogenetics to understanding patterns and processes of evolution at multiple levels of biological complexity, including historical biogeography, genomic evolution, developmental and morphological evolution, and the genetic structures of natural populations, especially of salamanders and lizards. The geographic scope of past studies includes populations native to the United States, Caribbean islands, eastern and western Asia, South Africa, South America, and moray eels of the Indo-Pacific Ocean.

He offers courses in molecular evolution, macroevolution, and the history of evolutionary theory, and coauthors textbooks in zoology. Together with Dr. Garland Allen, he is preparing an online resource of original readings in the history of evolutionary theory, with commentary on the major evolutionary themes encompassed by these works.

Photo caption: An Asian salamander, Tylototriton, shanjing.


recent courses

Darwin and Evolutionary Controversies

Focus is on controversies in evolutionary biology from Darwin's day to the present. Most of the controversies concern scientific issues such as Kelvin's estimate of age of the earth, Jenkin's argument against blending inheritance, neutral variations, effects of isolation on the role of selection, mass extinction and "nemesis," but some address social issues such as evolutionary ethics and "scientific creationism." Emphasis in the readings is on primary sources, including Darwin's Origin of Species.


    An advanced introduction to the study of macroevolutionary patterns and processes with emphasis on the systematic methodology employed. Topics: theories of classification, phylogenetic reconstruction, testing of historical hypotheses, hierarchy theory, adaptation, extinction, speciation, developmental mechanisms of organismal evolution, biogeography. Prerequisite: permission of instructor.

      Selected Publications

      Larson, A. 2014. Concepts in character macroevolution. Pp. 89-99 in J. B. Losos (ed.) The Princeton Guide to Evolution. Princeton University Press. Princeton, NJ.

      Larson, A. 2016. History of adaptation. in R. Kliman (ed.) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Biology. Elsevier.

      Hickman, C. P. Jr., S. L. Keen, D. J. Eisenhour, A. Larson, H. I’Anson. 2017. Integrated Principles of Zoology, Seventeenth Edition. McGraw-Hill Education. New York, NY.

      Hickman, C. P. Jr., S. L. Keen, A. Larson, D. J. Eisenhour. 2018. Animal Diversity, Eighth Edition. McGraw-Hill Education. New York, NY.

      Allen, G. E. and A. Larson. 2018. Evolution Since Darwin: Topics in the History of Evolutionary Biology, Primary Sources, 1858-1970. Washington University Libraries online resource (forthcoming).