SICB Division of Comparative Biomechanics (DCB)

DCB Researchers Database Entry

Miriam Ashley-Ross

Mechanistic Basis of Animal Behavior
My laboratory is interested in the mechanistic basis of animal behavior. A variety of animal species from diverse groups serve as models. Currently, my lab has two main research tracks. First, we are investigating the evolution of tetrapod (four-footed land animals: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians) locomotion by quantifying underwater locomotion using the limbs in salamanders. This may sound odd, but the fossil evidence indicates that the appearance of the tetrapod limb and foot pre-dated the move to land. Thus, one wants a model that approximates the posture of early tetrapods, and salamanders are our best available match. ur current results suggest that the basic terrestrial kinematic pattern of walking only requires minor modifications for use underwater. Second, we are examining the biomechanics of prey capture in tarantulas. These large, hairy, ground-dwelling spiders can capture small arthropods (such as crickets) in less than one-tenth of a second. Just how they detect and capture their prey is our current interest. My graduate students are working on such diverse projects as the function of the median fins during the escape response in fish, and the development of feeding biomechanics in a blind cave salamander. Techniques that we use are high-speed video, electromyography (recording patterns of muscle activity), sonomicrometry, and in vitro measures of muscle work and power output.