Jessica Garb is an Associate Professor in the College of Sciences and DEPARTMENT of Biological Science

Jessica E. Garb

Associate Professor

College of Sciences
Biological Science
(978) 934-2899


Molecular Evolution & Systematic Biology

Research Interests

Evolutionary Biology & Genomics

Work in my laboratory is broadly aimed at understanding biological evolution, from the molecular level to species diversification. We specialize in spiders, one of the most species-rich animal groups, and our current projects largely concern the evolution of proteins that have enabled their proliferation. Spider silks are renowned for their impressive mechanical properties and exhibit tremendous functional variation within and across species. We are using genomic tools to characterize the polymer-like proteins that make up spider silks from a variety of species. Because these proteins are encoded by a gene family, phylogenetic analyses of spiders and the silk proteins they synthesize are used to trace the long and complex history of silk evolution. Another major project is focused on the evolution of venom from black widow spiders and their close relatives. We are determining the molecular composition of these venoms to investigate the origin and diversification of potent toxins that enable prey capture. Such evolutionary work facilitates the discovery of beneficial and hazardous toxins with biomedical significance.


  • BS: Natural Resources, Cornell University
  • MS: Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology, University of Hawaii Manoa
  • Ph D: Environmental Science, Policy and Management, University of California Berkeley

Selected Publications

  • Thomas, G.W., Dohmen, E., Hughes, D.S., Murali, S.C., Poelchau, M., Glastad, K., Anstead, C.A., Ayoub, N.A., Batterham, P., Bellair, M., others, . (2020). Gene content evolution in the arthropods. Genome Biology, 21(1) 1--14.
  • Miles, L.S., Ayoub, N.A., Garb, J.E., Haney, R.A., Verrelli, B.C. (2020). Ovarian Transcriptomic Analyses in the Urban Human Health Pest, the Western Black Widow Spider. Genes, 11(1) 87.
  • Haney, R.A., Matte, T., Forsyth, F.S., Garb, J.E. (2019). Alternative transcription at venom genes and its role as a complementary mechanism for the generation of venom complexity in the common house spider. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 7 85.
  • Garb, J.E., Haney, R.A., Schwager, E.E., Gregoric, M., Kuntner, M., Agnarsson, I., Blackledge, T.A. (2019). The transcriptome of Darwin’s bark spider silk glands predicts proteins contributing to dragline silk toughness. Communications Biology, 2(1) 1--8.
  • Garb, J.E., Sharma, P.P., Ayoub, N.A. (2018). Recent progress and prospects for advancing arachnid genomics. Current Opinion in Insect Science, 25 51--57.
  • Rivera-de-Torre, E., Martinez-del-Pozo, A., Garb, J.E. (2018). Stichodactyla helianthus' de novo transcriptome assembly: Discovery of a new actinoporin isoform. Toxicon, 150 105--114.
  • Vienneau-Hathaway, J.M., Brassfield, E.R., Lane, A.K., Collin, M.A., Correa-Garhwal, S.M., Clarke, T.H., Schwager, E.E., Garb, J.E., Hayashi, C.Y., Ayoub, N.A. (2017). Duplication and concerted evolution of MiSp-encoding genes underlie the material properties of minor ampullate silks of cobweb weaving spiders. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 17(1) 78.
  • Clarke, T.H., Garb, J.E., Haney, R.A., Chaw, R.C., Hayashi, C.Y., Ayoub, N.A. (2017). Evolutionary shifts in gene expression decoupled from gene duplication across functionally distinct spider silk glands. Scientific Reports, 7(1) 1--13.
  • Gendreau, K.L., Haney, R.A., Schwager, E.E., Wierschin, T., Stanke, M., Richards, S., Garb, J.E. (2017). House spider genome uncovers evolutionary shifts in the diversity and expression of black widow venom proteins associated with extreme toxicity. BMC Genomics, 18(1) 178.
  • Schwager, E.E., Sharma, P.P., Clarke, T., Leite, D.J., Wierschin, T., Pechmann, M., Akiyama-Oda, Y., Esposito, L., Bechsgaard, J., Bilde, T., Garb, J.E. (2017). The house spider genome reveals an ancient whole-genome duplication during arachnid evolution. BMC Biology, 15(1) 1--27.
  • Haney, R.A., Clarke, T.H., Gadgil, R., Fitzpatrick, R., Hayashi, C.Y., Ayoub, N.A., Garb, J.E. (2016). Effects of gene duplication, positive selection, and shifts in gene expression on the evolution of the venom gland transcriptome in widow spiders. Genome Biology and Evolution, 8(1) 228--242.
  • Clarke, T.H., Garb, J.E., Hayashi, C.Y., Arensburger, P., Ayoub, N.A. (2015). Spider transcriptomes identify ancient large-scale gene duplication event potentially important in silk gland evolution. Genome Biology and Evolution, 7(7) 1856--1870.
  • Correa-Garhwal, S.M., Garb, J.E. (2014). Diverse formulas for spider dragline fibers demonstrated by molecular and mechanical characterization of spitting spider silk. Biomacromolecules, 15(12) 4598--4605.
  • Haney, R.A., Ayoub, N.A., Clarke, T.H., Hayashi, C.Y., Garb, J.E. (2014). Dramatic expansion of the black widow toxin arsenal uncovered by multi-tissue transcriptomics and venom proteomics. BMC Genomics, 15(1) 366.
  • Garb, J.E. (2014). Extraction of venom and venom gland microdissections from spiders for proteomic and transcriptomic analyses. JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments), (93) e51618.
  • Bhere, K.V., Haney, R.A., Ayoub, N.A., Garb, J.E. (2014). Gene structure, regulatory control, and evolution of black widow venom latrotoxins. FEBS letters, 588(21) 3891--3897.
  • Clarke, T.H., Garb, J.E., Hayashi, C.Y., Haney, R.A., Lancaster, A.K., Corbett, S., Ayoub, N.A. (2014). Multi-tissue transcriptomics of the black widow spider reveals expansions, co-options, and functional processes of the silk gland gene toolkit. BMC Genomics, 15(1) 365.
  • McCowan, C., Garb, J.E. (2014). Recruitment and diversification of an ecdysozoan family of neuropeptide hormones for black widow spider venom expression. Gene, 536(2) 366--375.
  • Zobel-Thropp, P.A., Correa, S.M., Garb, J.E., Binford, G.J. (2014). Spit and venom from Scytodes spiders: a diverse and distinct cocktail. Journal of Proteome Research, 13(2) 817--835.
  • Ayoub, N.A., Garb, J.E., Kuelbs, A., Hayashi, C.Y. (2013). Ancient properties of spider silks revealed by the complete gene sequence of the prey-wrapping silk protein (AcSp1). Molecular Biology and Evolution, 30(3) 589--601.
  • Garb, J.E., Hayashi, C.Y. (2013). Molecular evolution of alpha-latrotoxin, the exceptionally potent vertebrate neurotoxin in black widow spider venom. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 30(5) 999--1014.
  • Garb, J.E. (2013). Spider Silk: an ancient biomaterial for 21st century research. (pp. 252). Spider Research in the 21st Century: Trends and Perspectives
  • Garb, J.E., Ayoub, N.A., Hayashi, C.Y. (2010). Untangling spider silk evolution with spidroin terminal domains. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 10(1) 243.
  • Garb, J.E., Gillespie, R.G. (2009). Diversity despite dispersal: colonization history and phylogeography of Hawaiian crab spiders inferred from multilocus genetic data. Molecular Ecology, 18(8) 1746--1764.
  • Ayoub, N.A., Garb, J.E., Tinghitella, R.M., Collin, M.A., Hayashi, C.Y. (2007). Blueprint for a high-performance biomaterial: full-length spider dragline silk genes. PloS one, 2(6).
  • Garb, J.E., DiMauro, T., Lewis, R.V., Hayashi, C.Y. (2007). Expansion and intragenic homogenization of spider silk genes since the Triassic: evidence from Mygalomorphae (tarantulas and their kin) spidroins. Molecular Biology and Evolution, 24(11) 2454--2464.
  • Garb, J.E., DiMauro, T., Vo, V., Hayashi, C.Y. (2006). Silk genes support the single origin of orb webs. Science, 312(5781) 1762--1762.
  • Garb, J.E., Hayashi, C.Y. (2005). Modular evolution of egg case silk genes across orb-weaving spider superfamilies. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 102(32) 11379--11384.
  • Garb, J.E., Gonzalez, A., Gillespie, R.G. (2004). The black widow spider genus Latrodectus (Araneae: Theridiidae): phylogeny, biogeography, and invasion history. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 31(3) 1127--1142.