Miriam Ashley-Ross

Professor of Biology

B.S., Northern Arizona University (1988)
Ph.D., University of California, Irvine (1994)

008 Winston Hall
(336) 758-5529

Areas of Interest

Functional Morphology, Biomechanics, Comparative Physiology


My lab is interested in the mechanistic basis of animal behavior. A variety of animal species from diverse groups serve as models. Currently, my lab has three 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. Second, we are examining the biomechanics of prey capture and movement 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. Finally, my lab is working with collaborators at Northern Arizona University and Vassar College to understand how many species of small fish are able to jump on land using a coordinated “tail flip” behavior, even though these fish lack any apparent anatomical specializations for terrestrial movement. My graduate students are working on such diverse projects as how terrestrial locomotion in fish is constrained by body size and skeletal structure, how the archer fish controls its spit to knock down prey above the water, how the feet of salamanders contribute to locomotion on different substrates, and how tarantulas flip back over onto their feet after molting their old exoskeleton. 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.

Selected Recent Publications

(graduate student authors, undergraduate student authors)

Perlman, BM and MA Ashley-Ross. 2016. By land or by sea: a modified C-start motor pattern drives the terrestrial tail-flip. Journal of Experimental Biology, 219: 1860-1865. DOI:10.1242/jeb.128744

Burnette, MF and MA Ashley-Ross. 2015. One shot, one kill: the forces delivered by archer fish shots to distant targets. Zoology, 118(5): 302-311. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.zool.2015.04.001

Ashley-Ross, MA, Perlman, BM, Gibb, AC and JH Long, Jr. 2014. Jumping sans legs: does elastic energy storage by the vertebral column power terrestrial jumps in bony fishes? Zoology, 117: 7-18. DOI: 10.1016/j.zool.2013.10.005

Gibb, AC, Ashley-Ross, MA and ST Hsieh. 2013. Thrash, flip or jump: the behavioral and functional continuum of terrestrial locomotion in teleost fishes. Integrative and Comparative Biology, 53(2): 295-306. DOI: 10.1093/icb/ict052

Pronko, AJ, Perlman, BM and MA Ashley-Ross. 2013. Launches, squiggles and pounces, oh my! The water-land transition in mangrove rivulus (Kryptolebias marmoratus). Journal of Experimental Biology, 216: 3988-3995. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.089961

R Diogo, M Linde-Medina, V Abdala, and MA Ashley-Ross. 2013. New, puzzling insights from comparative myological studies on the old and unsolved forelimb/hindlimb enigma. Biological Reviews, 88:196-214. DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-185X.2012.00247.x

BA Chadwell and MA Ashley-Ross. 2012. Musculoskeletal morphology and regionalization within the dorsal and anal fins of bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus). Journal of Morphology, 273:405-422. DOI: 10.1002/jmor.11031.

BA Chadwell, EM Standen, GV Lauder, and MA Ashley-Ross. 2012. Median fin function during the escape response of bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus). I: Fin-ray orientation and movement. Journal of Experimental Biology, 215:2869-2880.

BA Chadwell, EM Standen, GV Lauder, and MA Ashley-Ross. 2012. Median fin function during the escape response of bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus). II: Fin-ray curvature. Journal of Experimental Biology, 215: 2881-2890.

AC Gibb, MA Ashley-Ross, CM Pace, and JH Long, Jr. 2011. Fish out of water: Terrestrial jumping by fully-aquatic fishes. Journal of Experimental Zoology A, 315A:649-653. DOI: 10.1002/jez.711.

MA Ashley-Ross, R Lundin, and KL Johnson. 2009. Kinematics of level terrestrial and underwater walking in the California newt, Taricha torosa. Journal of Experimental Zoology A, 311A:240-257.