chuy Jesus Alfonso Ballesteros
Graduate Student (Ph.D)
Phylogenetics and Evolution of Spiders
Department of Biological Sciences
The George Washington University
2023 G Street NW, Lisner Hall 340
Washington, D.C. 20052
Tel. Lab: (202) 994-0302
lab2: (202) 994-4412

Research Interests:

My research focuses on using phylogenetics (and other bioinformatic tools) to understand spider's diversity and evolution. For my dissertation I am working on the evolutionary history the common orchard spiders (Leucauge, Tetragnathidae). The starting point for this project is untangling the species identity of the the broadly distributed species (L. venusta). We are exploring the use of new sequencing technologies to develop a large array of molecular markers that will allow us to test genetic cohesion and species boundaries. The project is designed to be scalable to include as many species of Leucauge as possible, producing a working hypothesis for future revisionary work.

One the most interesting aspects observed in spiders is the complexity and diversity on the morphology of copulatory structures, particularly on the males. This phenomenon is common in many animal groups but spiders certainly take it to the extreme. Some spider groups show very simple copulatory organs, while others show a staggering complexity of structures and forms. Leucauge represents a good model to study the evolution of morphological diversity because most species posses relatively simple (i. e. trackable) morphology, with some representatives leaning to more complex conformations. It also helps that Leucauge sexual biology is one of the best documented with a wealth of experimental behavioral and ecological data. All this presents a great opportunity to use a combination of available tools to bring competing hypotheses of sexual evolution into a explicit phylogenetic framework to test their respecting predictions and thus shedding light on the role of sexual morphology on the arise of new species and its macroevolutionary implications.

Female Leucauge venusta on leaf. Gainesville, FL.

Recent Congress and Symposia:

2013 Evolution meeting. Snowbird Utah. Poster Title: You Can't Always Get What You Want... Phylogeny of Sheet Weaving Spiders (Araneae, Linyphiidae). Research and attendance supported by:NSF grants DEB 1144492 and DEB 114417


2009 Master's degree. Instituto de Biologia, Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Mexico.

2006 Bachelor's in Science (Biology). Escuela Nacional de Ciencias Biologicas, Instituto Politecnico Nacional. Mexico.

Teaching Experience:

Fall 2011, 2012. Phylogentic inference using T.N.T, (laboratory) for BiSc210 (Phylogenetic Systematics Graduate Course).

Fall 2010- Spring 2012. GTA for the laboratory of BiSc1006 and BISC 1005.

Field Work Experience:

Costa Rica (2013). Collection spiders, (focused in Linyphiidae) in several cloud forest localities.

USA (2012-2013)s Localities in Florida, Maryland and Virginia

Brazil (2012). Joint expedition to the Rio Jufari (INPA, Harvard and GWU), Amazonia.

Mexico (2004-2009). Chiapas, Chihuahua, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Queretaro, Tabasco, Veracruz, Zacatecas

Selected Grants and Awards:

2011, 2012, 2013 Harlan Fellowship for summer Resarch.

2012-present Weintraub Fellowship for Graduate Students

2010-2012 Teaching assitanship through the GWU GTAP

2008 Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Fund AMNH. Award for supporting reseach.

2008 PAEP-UNAM.- Award to support activities related with graduate studies.

2007-2008 CONACyT- Stipend granted to pursuit full time graduate studies.


Betancur-R R., Broughton R.E., Wiley E.O., Carpenter K., Lopez J.A., Li C., Holcroft N.I., Arcila D., Sanciangco M.,Ii J.C.C., Zhang F., Campbell M.A., Ballesteros J.A., Roa-varon A., Willis S., Borden W.C., Hough D.J., Lu G. 2013. The Tree of Life and a New Classification of Bony Fishes.PLOS Currents Tree of Life. Edition 1. doi: 10.1371/currents.tol.53ba26640df0ccaee75bb165c8c26288

Betancur-R R., Li C., Munroe T. A, Ballesteros J. A , Orti G. 2013. Addressing Gene Tree Discordance and Non-Stationarity to Resolve a Multi-Locus Phylogeny of the Flatfishes (Teleostei: Pleuronectiformes). Systematic biology 62:763-785.

Ballesteros, A. & O. F. Francke.2007. A new species of sun-spider from sand dunes in Coahuila, Mexico, (Arachnida: Solifugae: Eremobatidae).Zootaxa, 1665: 61-68.

Ballesteros, A. & O. F. Francke. 2006. Mastigoproctus lacandonensis, especie nueva de vinagrillo (Thelyphonida, Arachnida) de la selva Lacandona, Chiapas, Mexico.Entomologia Mexicana, 5 (1):156-161.

Ballesteros, A. y O. F. Francke. 2005. Reporte preliminar de los Amblypygi, Uropygi y Schizomida(Arachnida) de la Selva Lacandona, Chiapas, Mexico.Entomologia Mexicana, 4: 61-65.