About Kimberly L. Cooper's Work
A question of fundamental importance in biology is how the remarkable diversity of life on earth continues to infinitely expand via the selection for adaptive traits. A key example is the vertebrate limb that has taken myriad forms and plays an integral role in the radiation of tetrapod vertebrates. Little is known of the developmental and genetic mechanisms that produce extreme limb morphologies across reproductively isolating timescales. Specifically, I seek to understand the genetic mechanisms that transformed a mouse-like quadrupedal animal into a bipedal hopping rodent. In addition to loss of the first and fifth hindlimb digits, the three-toed jerboa has greatly elongated the hindlimb, fused the metatarsals of the feet, and eliminated all muscles distal to the ankle. My overarching goal is to identify the types of gene regulatory control alterations that shape the architecture and function of the musculoskeletal system.