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Evolution & Systematics
The biosphere is a network of interacting species that connects organisms across all scales, from microbes to mammals. Knowledge of the mechanisms underlying these relationships, and the evolutionary forces that shape them, is fragmentary. My lab has pioneered the study of rove beetles (Staphylinidae) as a model clade to break open basic problems in organismal interactions. Most of the >66,000 known rove beetle species are free-living predators, found in leaf litter and soil habitats spanning the globe.
Flying snakes are perhaps the world’s most unconventional gliders, turning their body into a wing by changing shape and undulating in the air. In this talk, I’ll discuss our experimental and theoretical efforts to understand the biomechanical features that underly this unique form of flight. Some of these specializations, such as jumping to cross gaps, also appear in sister taxa, suggesting that some aspects of their glide system were evolutionarily co-opted.