From the bat wing to the whale flipper to the human arm, the form of the limb governs a mammal's range of locomotor, social and feeding behaviors. As such, the evolution of the mammalian limb has played an integral role in mammalian diversification.
The Sears Lab seeks to understand how genetic and developmental mechanisms have influenced the morphological diversification of the mammalian limb, and thereby the evolution of mammals. Specifically, we seek to understand how development and genetics have been modified to generate new limb morphologies, and the role that development and genetics play in influencing why certain morphologies evolve (sometimes repeatedly) instead of others.
To pursue this goal, we combine traditional embryological and paleontological approaches with modern developmental and genetic techniques to gather data from fossil and living mammals. All of our research is highly integrative, and most is highly quantitative. 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., opossums, bats, horses, pigs). With this approach, we are advancing understanding of the role of development in morphologic evolution.
465 Morrill Hall
505 South Goodwin Avenue
Urbana, IL 61801
Email: ksears "at" life.illinois.edu
The Sears Lab is recruiting undergraduate and graduate students, and postdoctoral research fellows with interests in evolutionary developmental biology. For more information about positions in the lab, please click on the link on the left of the page.
Dr. Sears will be part of an LA press panel for the roll-out of the HHMI/PBS documentary "Your Inner Fish" in late January (lab research is featured in the documentary).
October 2013 - Dr. Sears will be an Associate Editor for Evolution starting in January 2014.
August 2013 - The Sears Lab welcomes new graduate students Katie Hughes and Daniel Sorensen, who started in the lab in August 2013.
Dr. Sears has been invited to chair a session of the Midwest Society of Developmental Biology meeting.
The Sears Lab congratulates lab member Daniel Urban, who received an NSF GRF.
February 2013 - Dr. Sears has been invited to present in a symposium on "Bat Evolution and Development" to be held at ICBR in August 2013 in Costa Rica.
Dr. Sears is co-organizing a symposium on Vertebrate Limb Development, and is speaking in that and in a second symposium on "Quantifying evolutionary development using non-model organisms: Integrating metrical frameworks, gene expression, and morphology" that will be held at ICVM in Barcelona in July 2013.
January 2013 - Dr. Sears has again named to the "List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students."
November 2012 - Sears Lab has received a major NSF grant entitled "Genetic determinants of mammalian limb diversity."
Sears Lab research is featured in the "Extreme Mammals" museum exhibit that is touring the country. The exhibit has been at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, is currently at the Field Museum in Chicago, and will also visit many other museums.