Dr Simon Tierney

Dr Simon Tierney
 Position Lecturer - Research Scientist
 Org Unit Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
 Email simon.tierney@adelaide.edu.au
 Telephone +61 8 8313 8349
 Location Floor/Room G 17 ,  Darling ,   North Terrace
  • Research Interests

    Behaviour, Ecology, Molecular Evolution, Systematics & Biogeography of insects.

    I am particularly interested in assessing transitions in behavioural environments from a comparative phylogenetic perspective, such as entry into new photic environments and the evolution of social behaviour.  

    The current project explores the loss of vision among a highly diverse lineage of diving water beetles, which have invaded a series of limestone aquifers deposited in ancient river valleys of the Murchison River Basin (Western Australia).  High-throughput sequencing technology is employed to explore how selection is (or is not) operating on a series of eye related target genes.  This is a collaborative effort between The University of Adelaide, South Australian Museum & Western Australian Museum with Steve Cooper, Andy Austin & Bill Humphreys.

    My graduate research (Flinders University) focused on the origin of eusocial colony organisation, using bees that can optionally switch between solitary and social nesting, and thereby provide insights into how complex societies arose.  Some such bees are unusual in that they only fly in dim-light (post-sunset and pre-dawn), and this led to an interest in vision science and a series of postdocs (Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute).  Both research themes involved construction of molecular phylogenies to explore the evolution of traits of interest.

  • Publications

    Light environments:

    Tierney SM, Friedrich M, Humphreys WH, Jones T, Warrant EJ & Wcislo WT. 2017. Consequences of evolutionary transitions in changing photic environments. Austral Entomology online 06 Jan 2017. doi:10.1111/aen.12264

    Tierney S.M., Cooper S.J.B., Saint. K.M., Bertozzi T., Hyde J., Humphreys W.F. & Austin A.D. 2015. Opsin transcripts of predatory diving beetles: a comparison of surface and subterranean photic niches. Royal Society Open Science 2: 140386.

    Tierney S.M., Sanjur O., Grajales G.G., Santos L.M., Bermingham E. & Wcislo W.T.  2012.  Photic niche invasions: phylogenetic history of the dim-light foraging augochlorine bees (Halictidae).  Proceeding of the Royal Society of London B 279: 794-803.

    Wcislo W.T. & Tierney S.M.  2009.  Behavioural environments and niche construction: the evolution of dim-light foraging in bees. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society 84: 19-37.


    Life History & Social Behaviour:

    Dew R.M., Tierney S.M. & Schwarz M.P. 2017. Lack of ovarian skew in an allodapine bee and the evolution of casteless social behaviour.  Ethology Ecology & Evolution published online 05/06/17 doi: 10.1080/03949370.2017.1313784

    Dew R.M., Tierney S.M. & Schwarz M.P. 2016. Social evolution and casteless societies: needs for new terminology and a new evolutionary focus.  Insectes Sociaux 63: 5-14.

    Rehan S.M., Tierney S.M. & Wcislo W.T. 2015. Evidence for social nesting in neotropical ceratinine bees. Insectes Sociaux 62: 465-469. 

    Smith J.A., Chenoweth L.B., Tierney S.M. & Schwarz M.P.  2013.  Repeated origins of social parasitism in allodapine bees indicate the weak form of Emery’s rule is widespread, but no evidence for sympatric speciation.  Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 109: 320-331.

    Tierney S.M., Fischer C.B., Rehan S.M., Kapheim K.M. & Wcislo W.T. 2013.  Frequency of social nesting in the sweat bee Megalopta genalis (Halictidae) does not vary across a rainfall gradient, despite disparity in brood production and body size.  Insectes Sociaux 60: 163-172.

    Dew R.M., Rehan S.M., Tierney S.M., Chenoweth L. & Schwarz M.P.  2012.  A single origin of large colony size in allodapine bees suggests a threshold event among 50 million years of evolutionary tinkering.  Insectes Sociaux 59: 207-214.

    Schwarz M.P., Tierney S.M., Rehan S.M., Chenoweth L. & Cooper S.J.B.  2011.  The evolution of eusociality in allodapine bees: workers began by waiting.  Biology Letters 7: 277-280.

    Santos L.M., Tierney S.M. & Wcislo W.T.  2010.  Nest descriptions of Megalopta aegis (Vachal) and M. guimaraesi Santos & Silveira (Hymenoptera, Halictidae) from the Brazilian Cerrado.  Revista Brasileira de Entomologia 54: 332-334.

    Tierney S.M. & Schwarz M.P.  2009.  Reproductive hierarchies in the African allodapine bee Allodapula dichroa (Apidae: Xylocopinae) and ancestral forms of sociality. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 97: 520-530.

    Wcislo W.T. & Tierney S.M.  2009.  Evolution of communal behavior in bees and wasps: an alternative to eusociality, in: Gadau J., J. Fewell, eds.  Organization of Insect Societies: from genomes to socio-complexity, pp 148-169. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA.

    Tierney S.M., Gonzales-Ojeda T. & Wcislo W.T.  2008a.  Biology of a nocturnal bee, Megalopta atra (Hymenoptera: Halictidae; Augochlorini), from the Panamanian highlands.  Journal of Natural History 42: 1841-1847.

    Tierney S.M., Gonzales-Ojeda T. & Wcislo W.T.  2008b.  Nesting biology and social behavior of two Xenochlora bees (Hymenoptera: Halictidae: Augochlorini) from Perú.  Journal of the Kansas Entomological Society 81: 61-72.

    Tierney S.M., Smith J.A., Chenoweth L. & Schwarz M.P.  2008.  Phylogenetics of allodapine bees: a review of social evolution, parasitism and biogeography.  Apidologie 39: 3-15.

    Chenoweth L., Tierney S.M., Smith J.A., Cooper S.J.B. & Schwarz M.P.  2007.  Social complexity in bees is not sufficient to explain lack of reversions to solitary living over long time scales.  BMC Evolutionary Biology 7: 246. 

    Smith J.A., Tierney S.M., Park Y.C., Fuller S. & Schwarz M.P.  2007.  Origins of social parasitism: The importance of divergence ages in phylogenetic studies.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 43: 1131-1137.

    Aenmey T., Tierney S.M., Pillay N., & Schwarz M.P.  2006.  Nesting biology of an African allodapine bee Braunsapis vitrea: female biased sex allocation in the absence of worker-like behavioural castes.  Ethology Ecology and Evolution 18: 205-220.

    Schwarz, M.P., Tierney S.M. & Chapman T.W.  2006.  Phylogenetic analyses of life history traits in allodapine bees and social evolution.  In V.E. Kipyatkov, ed. Life Cycles of Social Insects: Behaviour, Ecology and Evolution, pp. 147-155.  St. Petersburg University Press: St. Petersburg.

    Schwarz M.P., Tierney S.M., Zammit J., Schwarz P.M. & Fuller S.  2005.  Brood provisioning and colony composition of a Malagasy species of Halterapis: implications for social evolution in the allodapine bees.  Annals of the Entomological Society of America 98: 126-133.

    Tierney S.M., Schwarz M.P., Neville T. & Schwarz P.M.  2002.  Sociality in the phylogenetically basal allodapine bee genus Macrogalea (Apidae, Xylocopinae): implications for social evolution in the tribe Allodapini. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 76: 211-224.

    Tierney S.M., Cronin A.L., Loussert N., Schwarz M.P. 2000. The biology of Brevineura froggatti and phylogenetic conservatism in Australian allodapine bees. Insectes Sociaux 47: 96-97.

    Neville T., Schwarz M.P. & Tierney S.M.  1998.  Biology of a weakly social bee, Exoneura (Exoneurella) setosa (Hymenoptera: Apidae) and implications for social evolution in Australian allodapine bees.  Australian Journal of Zoology 46: 221-234.

    Tierney S.M., Schwarz M.P. & Adams M. 1997. Social behaviour in an Australian allodapine bee Exoneura (Brevineura) xanthoclypeata (Hymenoptera: Apidae). Australian Journal of Zoology 45: 384-398.


    Systematics & Biogeography:

    Chenoweth L., Fuller S., Tierney S.M., Park Y.C. & Schwarz M.P.  2008.  Hasinamelissa: a new genus of allodapine bee from Madagascar revealed by larval morphology and DNA sequence data.  Systematic Entomology 33: 700-710

    Schwarz M.P., Fuller S., Tierney S.M. & Cooper S.J.B.  2006.  Molecular phylogenetics of the exoneurine allodapine bees reveal an ancient and puzzling dispersal from Africa to Australia.  Systematic Biology 55: 31-45.

    Fuller S., Schwarz M.P. & Tierney S.M.  2005.  Phylogenetics of the allodapine bee genus Braunsapis: historical biogeography and long-range dispersal over water.  Journal of Biogeography 32: 2135-2144.

    Schwarz M.P., Tierney S.M., Bull N.J. & Cooper S.J.B.  2004.  Molecular phylogenetics of the allodapine bee genus Braunsapis: A-T bias and heterogeneous substitution parameters.  Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 32: 110-122.

    Tierney S.M. & Schwarz M.P.  2003. Taxonomic description of allodapine bees from the Zanzibar archipelago genus Macrogalea (Hymenoptera: Apidae).  African Entomology 11: 199-203.

  • Community Engagement

    Public Events:

    International Pint of Science Festival - Adelaide. Tuxedo Cat (Adelaide) & Wheatsheaf Hotel (Thebarton), 19-20 May 2015

    Pint of Science

    Science in the Pub - Adelaide. The Duke of Brunswick Hotel (Adelaide), 5 December 2014

    The Bees Knees: The importance of pollinators and their recent decline

    Science in the Pub Adelaide



    ABC, Radio National, 28 January 2015.

    RN Afternoons, live interview with Michael Mackenzie – “Blind beetles"


    News Articles:

    Science Magazine, ScienceNow – news from Science, 26 July 2011 

    ScienceShot: A buzz in the dark

    ABC, Science Online - Ask an Expert, 18 March 2015

    How does evolution explain animals losing vision?

    The Conversation, Science + Technology, 5 February 2015

    What blind beetles can teach us about evolution

    Entomology Today, Entomological Society of America, 30 January 2015.

    Blind Cave Beetles Lack Eyes but Still Have Sight Genes

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Entry last updated: Thursday, 30 Aug 2018

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