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lab profile


Karen Sears

University of Illinois
465 Morrill Hall
505 South Goodwin Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801


Taxa Studied: Vertebrate Animals, Monodelphis domestica (grey, short-tailed opossum) Mus musculus (laboratory mouse) Sus scrofa (domesticated pig) Bos taurus (domesticated cow) Carollia perspicillata (Seba
Techniques Employed: Degenerate PCR, Quantitative PCR (qPCR), Microarrays, Solexa (Illumina) Sequencing, In Situ Hybridization, Antibody Staining, Sectioning for Histology, Scanning Electron Microscopy, Epifluoresence Microscopy, Confocal Microscopy, Other, Morphometrics
Research Description: From the bat wing to the whale flipper to the human arm, the form of the limb governs a mammalÉ??s range of locomotor, social and feeding behaviors. As such, the evolution of the mammalian limb has played an integral role in the diversification of the group. In our research, we seek to understand how developmental mechanisms have influenced the morphological diversification of the mammalian limb, and thereby the evolution of mammals. Specifically, we are motivated by a desire to understand how development has been modified to generate new limb morphologies, and the role that development plays in influencing why certain morphologies evolve (sometimes repeatedly) instead of others. To pursue these questions, we combine traditional embryological and paleontological approaches with modern developmental genetic and morphometric techniques to gather data from fossil and living mammals. Using these techniques we expand upon what is known in model organisms (e.g., mouse) into a comparative approach incorporating non-model organisms (e.g., possums, bats, cows, pigs, alligators, etc.). Mammalian limbs are an ideal study system for evolutionary developmental (evo-devo) research because they possess a great variety of developmental modes, adult morphologies and a good fossil record. Furthermore, the limb is a model system for developmental biology, and as such a great deal is known about limb development in model tetrapods, which I use as a springboard for my research in non-model organisms.
Lab Web Page: http://www.life.uiuc.edu/sears/Home.html
Willing to Host Undergraduates: YES
Actively Seeking Undergraduates: YES
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