Deep Sea fishes
I am interested in large scale evolutionary questions about why deep sea fishes have flaccid, unmineralized skeletons. My interests in biomaterials and functional morphology have led to a new investigation exploring the composition and material properties of bone and cartilage and their connective tissues in deep sea fishes. Fishes that live in deep water tend to be united by a flaccid bony or cartilaginous skeleton. The main function of a skeleton is to form a load bearing structure that moves the body via lever systems during skeletal muscle contractions. I will be testing the material properties of deep sea skeletons in a variety of fishes including the giant oarfish which has recently made headlines in the press.
The oarfish (2013 female, 2015 female, and two 2015 male strandings) have been CT scanned and we are now reconstructing the skeleton into a file for 3D printing. This allows me to get a good understanding of the fish's anatomy prior to a full dissection. I will then use materials testing techniques and histology to explore why the oarfish and other deep sea fish have such highly unmineralized bony and cartilaginous skeletons. This project is a collaborative effort with Dr. Lara Ferry (ASU).
We are also investigating oarfish reproduction in collaboration with Dr. Kristy Forsgren.