Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis



First Advisor

Dr. Andrea L. Liebl


Anolis, Gene Expression, Muscle Performance, RNA-seq


Animal muscles are exceptionally diverse in structure and function as they meet a variety of demands for an individual to survive. Muscles coordinate with each other so that individuals can survive in their environments. However, muscles vary in performance to best suit their role in promoting organism survival; differences in gene expression among muscles likely accounts for much of this variation. Anolis lizards, a genus that has undergone considerable adaptive radiation, live in a wide range of habitats and ecotypes to which each species has had to evolve appropriately to survive. These habitats require different muscles of the anole to perform extremely variable tasks. Unsurprisingly, muscle performance of these lizards (e.g. twitch time and peak contractile velocity) varies among muscle types. Specifically, the performance of jaw and leg muscles, diverges strongly because their importance for survival (e.g., to escape predation and to bite prey) differs both across and within individuals. Here, I use RNA-seq to measure the differential gene expression generating differences in muscle performance between the jaw and leg muscles. The observed discrepancy in gene expression may explain the divergence in performance observed between the muscles. Determining the underlying differences in gene expression between muscles and individuals will help explain how performance metrics (e.g., twitch time and peak contractile velocity) change over time. Additionally, differential gene expression could show how the ecology and evolution of an individual influences its muscle performance.



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