SICB Division of Vertebrate Morphology (DVM)

DVM Researchers Database Entry

Kurt Schwenk

Feeding and Chemosensory Biology
In the broadest sense, I am interested in how phenotypes (form, function and behavior) evolve. In particular, I am interested in the notion of 'historical contingency' and how phenotypes create the context for their own future evolution. As such, organismal phenotypes act as filters that mitigate, moderate, accelerate or otherwise modify the affects of selection. My theoretical work in this area is focused on the concepts of functional integration, internal selection and evolutionary constraint, but this work grows directly from empirical research relating to feeding and chemosensory biology in lizards and snakes. I am especially interested in the form, function and evolution of the tongue in this group because lingual phenotypes represent a trade-off between feeding and chemosensory function. The evolutionary dynamic created by this trade-off has resulted in multiple evolutionary 'solutions' that we analyze morphologically, functionally, biomechanically, phylogenetically, behaviorally and/or theoretically in the lab and in the field. Students develop projects related directly or indirectly to this over-arching research program, or they devise independent projects within the general context of vertebrate morphology and phenotypic evolution. See: