Peter Houde

Professor of Biology

Principal Investigator, Genome Sequencing Laboratory

Curator-in-Charge The Vertebrate Museum



Ph.D. Anatomy, Howard University College of Medicine

NSF Postdoctoral Fellow, Princeton University

Smithsonian Institution Predoctoral Fellow and Research Associate

B.A. Biology, State University of New York at Stony Brook


Curriculum Vitae


    Courses Regularly Offered

    Pre-Professional Human Anatomy

    Comparative Anatomy and Embryology






Research Focus      -     Ornithology, Molecular Systematics, Anatomy, Vertebrate Palaeontology


"To tentatively entertain these proposals with anything approaching genuine interest, one would have to believe that ornithological systematists know nothing about phylogenetic relationships." -Anonymous Reviewer of Fain and Houde 2004 Parallel Radiations in the Primary Clades of Birds



                My interests lie in the very broad areas of the evolutionary biology of birds, and of mammals to a lesser degree.  My research covers several areas.  1) Phylogeny reconstruction - the genealogical relationships of organisms to one another.  I am most interested in 'higher-level' interfamilial and interordinal relationships.  My lab discovered molecular genetic evidence that at least five traditionally recognized orders of birds are polyphyletic, and mistaken to be related on the basis of convergent morphologies.  2) Biogeography - the correlation of patterns of phyletic divergence and the origins of new taxa to the geographic distribution of species and the formation of geophysical barriers through time.  Some researchers conjecture that groups of birds with modern endemism to southern continents must have originated there during the Cretaceous when those continents were united.  However, among the orders of fossil birds I have described are the sister group to modern ratites, Lithornithiformes, and a primitive ostrich, Palaeotis, whose Northern Hemisphere distributions are quite inconsistent with those of their modern southern relatives.  Similarly, our molecular genetic data show that various "gruiform" birds with southern disjunct endemism (e.g., kagu-sunbittern, or the pantropical finfoot family) are too closely related to have diverged in the Cretaceous.  Indeed, fossils suggest that these dispersed through the Northern Hemisphere during the Cenozoic, instead.   3) Macroevolution - the plasticity and polarity of morphological evolution within lineages.  This is best understood by exploring pattern in the distribution of morphological characters that are superimposed onto a phylogenetic "tree" inferred independently from molecular genetic analysis.   I address these diverse problems through the combined study of fossil vertebrates, comparative anatomy (particularly osteology) and DNA sequencing. 


                I have separate laboratory facilities devoted to molecular and paleontological studies.  In 2009 my lab acquired a "NextGen" DNA sequencer, the 454 - FLX+ along with supporting apparati and staff, as the cornerstone of a new Genome Sequencing Facility at NMSU.  Among our department's natural history museums are comparative vertebrate collections for use in research and education.


                I welcome inquiries from prospective graduate students who are interested in integrating diverse classical and modern disciplines to address the systematics and macroevolution of any taxonomic group of organisms. 






Did someone say phylogenomics?






The Hoatzin Genome Project















The Vertebrate Museum

The whale is now on permanent public display

Excavating a fossil mastodont





Peer-reviewed Publications

Churbanov, A., R. Ryan, N. Hasan, D. Bailey, H. Chen, B. Milligan, and P. Houde. 2012. HighSSR: high-throughput SSR characterization and locus development from next-gen sequencing data.  Bioinformatics 28 (21): 2797-2803. pdf

Silcox, M.T., A. Hrenchuk, J.I. Bloch, D.M. Boyer, and P. Houde. 2011. Endocranial morphology of Labidolemur kayi (Apatemyidae, Apatotheria) and its relevance to the study of brain evolution in Euarchontoglires. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 31: 1-12. pdf


Price, D.P., V. Nagarajan, A. Churbanov, P. Houde, B. Milligan, L.L. Drake, J.E. Gustafson, I.A. Hansen. 2011. The fat body transcriptomes of the yellow fever mosquito Aedes aegypti, pre- and postblood meal. PloS ONE 6 (7): e22573. pdf


Armstrong, S.D., J.I. Bloch, P. Houde, and M.T. Silcox. 2011. Cochlear labyrinth volume in Euarchontoglirans: implications for the evolution of hearing in Primates. Anatomical Record 294: 263-266.  pdf


Silcox, M.T., J.I. Bloch, D.M. Boyer, and P. Houde. 2010.  Cranial anatomy of Paleocene and Eocene Labidolemur kayi (Mammalia: Apatotheria), and the relationships of the Apatemyidae to other mammals. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 160: 773-825. pdf

Houde, P. 2009.  Gruiformes. in Timetree of Life (S.B. Hedges and S. Kumar, eds.) Oxford Univ. Press, NY.  pdf.

Heinrich, R.E., S. G. Strait, and P. Houde. 2008.  Earliest Eocene Miacidae (Mammalia, Carnivora) from Northwestern Wyoming. Journal of Paleontology 82: 153-161. pdf

Fain, M.G., C. Krajewski, and P. Houde. 2007.  Phylogeny of "core Gruiformes" (Aves: Grues) and resolution of the Limpkin-Sungrebe problem. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 43: 515-529. pdf  GenBank Accessions Alignment

Fain, M.G., and P. Houde. 2007.  Multilocus perspectives on the monophyly and phylogeny of the order Charadriiformes (Aves). BMC Evolutionary Biology 2007, 7:35 pdf  GenBank Accessions

Polly, P.D., D.G. Wesley-Hunt, R.E. Heinrich, G. Davis, and P. Houde. 2006. Earliest known carnivoran auditory bulla and support for a recent origin of crown-group Carnivora (Eutheria: Mammalia). Paleontology 49: 1019-1027. pdf 

Heinrich, R.E., and P. Houde. 2006. Postcranial anatomy of Viverravus (Mammalia, Carnivora) and implications for substrate use in basal Carnivora. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 26: 422-435 pdf

Bailey, C.D. M.G. Fain, and P. Houde.  2006.  Problems with conditioned reconstruction as means of recovering fusion genomes.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 39: 263-270. pdf

Fain, M.G., and P. Houde. 2004.  Parallel radiations in the primary clades of birds.  Evolution 58: 2558-2573.  pdf  GenBank Accessions

Houde, P., A. Cooper, E. Leslie, A.E. Strand, and G. A. Montano.  1997.  Phylogeny and evolution of 12S rDNA in Gruiformes (Aves). pp. 117-154 in Avian Molecular Evolution and Systematics  (D. P. Mindell, ed.) Academic Press. pdf  GenBank Accessions

Houde, P., F.H. Sheldon, and M. Kreitman.  1995.  A comparison of solution and membrane-bound DNA X DNA hybridization, as used to infer phylogeny.   Journal of Molecular Evolution 40: 678-688.  pdf

Houde, P. 1994.  Evolution of the Heliornithidae: reciprocal illumination by morphology, biogeography, and DNA hybridization.  Cladistics 10: 1-19.  pdf

Rose, K.D., K.C. Beard, and P. Houde.  1993.  Exceptional new dentitions of the diminutive plesiadapiforms Tinimomys and Niptomomys (Mammalia), with comments on the upper incisors of Plesiadapiformes.  Annals of the Carnegie Museum  62 (4): 351-361.

Houde, P., and S.L. Olson.  1992.  A radiation of coly-like birds from the Eocene of North America (Aves: Sandcoleiformes, new order).  Natur. Hist. Mus. Los Angeles Co., Science Ser., No. 36: 137-160.  pdf

Kay, R. F., R. W. Thorington, Jr., and P. Houde.  1990.  Eocene plesiadapiform shows affinities with flying lemurs not primates.  Nature 345: 342-344.  pdf

Houde, P., and S.L. Olson.  1989.  Small arboreal non-passerine birds from the early Tertiary of the Northern Hemisphere.   pp.  2030-2036 in Acta XIX Congressus Internationalis Ornithologici, Vol. 2.  (H. Ouellet, ed.)  University of Ottawa Press.

Beard, K.C., and P. Houde.  1989.  An unusual assemblage of diminutive plesiadapiforms (Mammalia, ?Primates) from the early Eocene of the Clark's Fork Basin, Wyoming.  Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 9: 388-399.

Houde, P.  1988.  Paleognathous birds from the early Tertiary of the Northern Hemisphere (R. A. Paynter, Jr. ed.) Publications of the Nuttall Ornithological Club, No. 22, Cambridge MA, 148 pp. pdf

Houde, P., and M. J. Braun.  1988.  Museum collections as a source of DNA for studies of avian phylogeny.  Auk 105: 773-776. pdf

Houde, P., and H. Haubold.  1987.  Palaeotis weigelti restudied: a small middle Eocene ostrich.  Palaeovertebrata 17 (2): 27-42. pdf

Houde, P.  1987.  Critical evaluation of DNA hybridization studies in avian systematics.  Auk 104: 17-32.

Houde, P.  1987.  Histological evidence for the systematic position of Hesperornis (Odontornithae: Hesperornithiformes).   Auk 104: 125-129. pdf

Houde, P.  1987.  Reply to A. H. Bledsoe, [Estimation of phylogeny from molecular data: the issue of variable rates] and J. E. Ahlquist, et al. [DNA hybridization and avian systematics: a response to Houde].  Auk 104: 566-568.

Houde, P.  1986.  Ancestors of ostriches found in the Northern Hemisphere suggest a new hypothesis for origin of ratites.  Nature 324: 563-565.  pdf

Gingerich, P.D., P. Houde, and D.W. Krause.  1983.  A new earliest Tiffanian (late Paleocene) mammalian fauna from Bangtail Plateau, Western Crazy Mountain Basin, Montana.  Journal of Paleontology 57 (5): 957-970.

Houde, P., and S.L. Olson.  1981.  Paleognathous carinate birds from the early Tertiary of North America.  Science 214: 1236-1237.

Houde, P.  1977.  Low productivity of terns on Hicks Island, 1975.  Proceedings, Linnaean Society of New York (1977) 73: 49-57.

Houde, P.  1977.  Gull-tern interactions on Hicks Island, 1975.  Proceedings, Linnaean Society of New York (1977) 73: 58-64.


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