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Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut

Research interests:

- The evolution of form and function in vertebrate animals, especially lizards and snakes
- The functional morphology and evolution of feeding in lizards and other vertebrates
- The functional morphology and evolution of chemoreception in lizards and snakes, especially the
biomechanics of tongue-flicking and the vomeronasal organs
- Structure, function and evolution of the vertebrate tongue
- Evolutionary constraint
- Phenotypic evolution

My research program is three-pronged: I pursue empirical studies related to the functional and evolutionary morphology of feeding and chemoreception in lizards and snakes (squamate reptiles), and theoretical work related to phenotypic evolution, particularly the concept of evolutionary constraint. Feeding and chemoreception are functionally and evolutionarily related in squamates owing to their shared use of a single, complex organ, the tongue. From a biomechanical point of view, optimization of the tongue for feeding function makes it less effective in vomeronasal chemoreception via tongue-flicking, and vice versa. Thus, there is a classic functional (and evolutionary) trade-off between the two principal functions of the tongue. Phylogenetic character analysis reveals how each major clade of squamates has found a unique 'solution' to the problem of this trade-off. The dynamic nature of the evolutionary tension created by competing sources of selection pressure has led to my theoretical work on internal selection, functional integration, phenotypic stability ('stasis') and evolutionary constraint. Although theoretical, this work is firmly grounded in my empirical studies of squamate feeding and chemosensory systems, which have proven to be compelling model systems for approaching these broader issues.


- Herpetology
- Mammalogy
- Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy


  • –present
    Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Connecticut