W. Ford Doolittle

Professor Emeritus


Email: w.ford.doolittle@dal.ca
Phone: 902-494-3569
Mailing Address: 
5850 College Street, Room 8-A2
Sir Charles Tupper Medical Building
PO Box 15000
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4R2


  • PhD, Stanford University
  • FRSC

Academic Positions

  • Department member since 1971
  • Member, U.S. National Academy of Sciences

Research Topics

Genomics, Molecular Phylogeny, Gene Transfer


I examine prevailing concepts in genomics, molecular biology and microbial ecology, most often as these reflect understandings of evolution by natural selection. Particular concerns are multilevel selection theory, selection for differential persistence (instead of differential reproduction), holobiosis and selection on cycles and interactions, microbiology and the Modern Synthesis, origin of eukaryotes and cellular complexity, lateral gene transfer and the Tree of Life, and the meaning of “function”.

Current Lab Members

Wanda Danilchuk
Research Assistant
Christopher Jones Postdoc (Dalhousie University)



  1. Wideman, J.G., Novick, A., Muñoz-Gómez, S.A. and Doolittle, W.F., (2019) Neutral evolution of cellular phenotypes. Curr Op Gen Dev 58/59:87-94 [Article]
  2. Doolittle, WF, (2019) Making evolutionary sense of Gaia. Trends Ecol Evol 34:889-894 [Article]
  3. Doolittle, WF, (2018) We simply cannot go on being so vague about “function". Genome Biology 19:223 [Article]
  4. Doolittle WF, (2018) Processes and patterns of interaction as units of selection: an introduction to ITSNTS thinking. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 115:4006-4014 [PubMed]
  5. Mariscal C, Doolittle WF, (2018) Life and Life only: a radical alternative to life definitionism. Synthese : [Article]
  6. Doolittle WF, (2018) Speciation without species: a final word. Philosophy, Theory and Practice in Biology In Press: [Article]
  7. Wideman JG, Inkpen SA, Doolittle WF, (2018) Mutationism, not Lamarckism, captures the novelty of CRISPR-Cas. Biology & Philosophy 34:12 [Article]
  8. Doolittle W.F. and Booth, A., (2017) It's the song, not the singer: an exploration of holobiosis and evolutionary theory. Biology and Philosophy 32:5-24 [Article]
  9. Inkpen SA, Doolittle WF., (2017) Molecular phylogenetics and the perennial problem of homology. J. Molec. Evol. 83:184-192 [PubMed]
  10. Doolittle W.F., (2017) Making the most of clade selection. Philosophy of Science 84:275-295 [Article]
  11. Doolittle W.F., (2017) Darwinizing Gaia. J. Theor. Biol. 434:11-19 [PubMed]
  12. Inkpen SA, Douglas GM, Brunet TDP, Leuschen K, Doolittle WF, Langille MI, (2017) The coupling of taxonomy and function in microbiomes. Biology & Philosophy 32:1225-1243 [Article]
  13. Doolittle WF, Brunet TDP, (2017) On causal roles and selected effects: our genome is mostly junk. BMC Biology 15:116 [PubMed]
  14. Doolittle W.F. and Brunet, T.D.P., (2016) What is the Tree of Life? PLoS Genetics 12(4):e1005912 [PubMed]
  15. Booth A., Mariscal C. and Doolittle W.F., (2016) The Modern Synthesis in the light of microbial genomics. Annu. Rev. Microbiol. 70:279-297 [PubMed]
  16. Booth, A. and Doolittle, W.F., (2015) Eukaryogenesis, how special really? Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 112(33):10278-85 [PubMed]
  17. Brunet, T.D. and Doolittle, W.F. , (2015) Multilevel selection theory and the evolutionary functions of transposable elements. Genome Biol. Evol. 7(8):2445-2457 [PubMed] [Article]
  18. Doolittle, W.F., (2014) Natural selection through survival alone, and the possibility of Gaia. Biology and Philosophy 29:415-423 [Article]
  19. Doolittle, W.F., (2013) Is junk DNA bunk? A critique of ENCODE. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 110(14):5294-5300 [PubMed]