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Brad Moon

1988 B.A. (Biology)  University of California, Santa Cruz, CA

1992 M.S. (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology) University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ

1998 Ph.D. (Biology)  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

My major research interests focus on the mechanisms and evolution of animal movement. I am particularly interested in how muscles work in natural behaviors. Muscles are versatile motors. In vivo, muscles can pull against each other and against their tendons in complex ways: they can act as accelerators or brakes, and their tendons can act as springs that store energy from one contraction to the next. The ways that these mechanisms work together in living animals to enhance strength and reduce cost are not easily predicted from fundamental principles and are exciting to discover.

In one series of projects, I have been studying the complex muscle-tendon networks of snakes, especially how individual muscles are used to produce and control movements that differ in speed, strength, and duration. The behaviors I have been studying include locomotion, constriction, and swallowing, primarily in gopher snakes (Pituophis melanoleucus). For this work, I used video recordings to quantify the movements and electromyography to record muscle activity patterns during these behaviors. The long muscle-tendon networks are used to bend many segments of the body, and their anatomy and activity patterns indicate that the muscles pull on each other and on vertebral joints in complex ways that enhance strength and reduce energy use.

In another series of projects, I have been studying the relationships among muscle anatomy, mechanics, and energetics. Rattlesnake tailshaker muscle is a great system for studying these things because it is specialized for sustaining high frequency contractions and shows very clear relationships between muscle speed, strength, motion, and energy use. With several colleagues, I have been using sonomicrometry and force transducers to record muscle shortening patterns and force exertion during rattling in western diamondback rattlesnakes (Crotalus atrox). Rattlesnake tailshaker muscle is an excellent study system because sustains extremely high twitch frequencies (up to 100 Hz!) without fatigue. These muscles show clear mechanical tradeoffs between contractile frequency and joint displacement that help to explain their unusually low energy use.

In future research, I am planning to study how muscle strength and energy use are modulated by muscle-tendon interconnections and activation patterns. I also plan to continue studying the mechanics, energetics, and evolution of the high frequency tailshaker muscles of rattlesnakes and their relatives. In addition to these snake projects, I am interested in a number of other studies on feeding and locomotion in other animals that offer great opportunities for students in my lab.

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For more information, or to find out about getting involved in my lab, please feel free to contact me at:

Brad Moon, Department of Biology, PO Box 42451, Lafayette, LA 70504 Telephone: (337) 482-5662