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Nicole King Evolutionary biologist

Nicole King studies choanoflagellates and the evolution of multicellular animals from their unicellular ancestors. The origin of animals represents one of the pivotal transitions in life’s history, and one of its greatest unsolved mysteries. While the fossil record remains silent regarding the rise of multicellularity, the genetic and developmental foundations of animal origins may be deduced from shared elements among extant animals and their protozoan relatives, the choanoflagellates. To better understand the origin and evolution of animals, King’s goals are to determine the minimal genomic complexity of the common ancestor of animals, elucidate the ancestral functions of genes required for multicellular development, characterize choanoflagellate cell and developmental biology, and test the hypothesis that the emergence of multicellular animals stemmed, in part, from the evolution of new modes of gene regulation.


Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 2013.

MacArthur Fellow, 2005.

Pew Biomedical Scholar, 2004.

George A. Bartholomew Award in Comparative Physiology, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, 2004.

Relevant Publications

R. A. Alegado et al. “A Bacterial Sulfonolipid Triggers Multicellular Development in the Closest Living Relatives of Animals.” Ed. Peter Greenberg. eLife, vol. 1, 2012. e00013. PMC. Web. 20 Nov. 2015.

D. J. Richter and N. King, "The Genomic and Cellular Foundations of Animal Origins," Annual Review of Genetics, vol. 47, pp. 509-537, 2013.

T. C. Levin and N. King, "Evidence for Sex and Recombination in the Choanoflagellate Salpingoeca rosetta," Current Biology, vol. 23, no. 21, pp. 2176-2180, 2013.

R. A. Alegado, and N. King, "Bacterial influences on animal origins," Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in biology, vol. 6, no. 11, pp. a016162, 2014.

T. C. Levin et al, "The rosetteless gene controls development in the choanoflagellate S. rosetta," eLife, vol. 3, 2014.



Senior Fellow Integrated Microbial Biodiversity


University of California, BerkeleyDepartment of Molecular & Cell Biology


PhD (Biochemistry) Harvard University

BS (Biology) Indiana University


United States

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