Biological & Geological Sciences 2066
(519) 661-2111 x 81467
My research interests focus primarily on the interface between evolution, ecology, and biomechanics. In general, I am curious about constraints in design that might set the upper limits to performance for such activities as jumping, running, flying and biting. In this context, I have used the decapod claw (crabs and lobsters) as a model system. Decapod claws are exceptionally strong ‘biting’ devices used in the subjugation of hard-shelled prey; although simple in design, they are one of the strongest biting devices observed in any animal group. This is not surprising, considering that durophagous crabs and lobsters have been hunting hard-shelled prey, such as snails and clams, for millions of years. Indeed, this system provides one of the best examples of a coevolutionary arms-race between predator and prey. I have documented ecologically significant variation in claw performance and design among six species of Cancer crabs, which live on the Pacific Northwest coast (Bamfield Marine Station). I have also examined variation in claw performance and design at the population level, documenting rapid shifts in performance attributes in an invasive species. This work was conducted on the invasive green crab, Carcinus maenas, which now has a world-wide distribution and a well-documented invasion history in the Gulf of Maine. My research integrates approaches from diverse fields, including morphometrics, physiology, and development within an evolutionary context, to understand how animals are ‘designed’.