Current research projects include:
(1) a detailed study of both the recruitment patterns and the fiber types of the jaw adductor muscles of macaques and baboons. The goals are to determine the nature of the general relationship between recruitment pattern and fiber type for the jaw adductors, to find out whether the jaw adductors are sexually dimorphic in these anthropoid primates, and if so, to develop a biomechanical model to describe this relationship and relate it to both size and function;
(2) investigations of the energetic costs of feeding behaviors in humans and nonhuman primates. The goal of this work is to better understand the relationship between the functional anatomy of the feeding apparatus and the metabolic costs that an animal incurs during feeding.
(3) a collaborative project with Greg Wray (Duke Biology), Brian Hare (Duke Evolutionary Anthropology), and Sarah Tishkoff (University of Pennsylvania) to study variation in the expression patterns of a number of diet-related genes in chimpanzees and humans; current work in includes a comparative genomic study of genes that code for enamel matrix proteins and associated proteases to document whether the thick enamel trait in humans is associated with positive selection in the noncoding regions of these genes.
(4) development of a public database - the Feeding Experiments End-user Database (FEED, www.feedexp.org) in collaboration with Dr. Rebecca German (Johns Hopkins), Dr. Susan Williams (Ohio Univ.), Dr. Chris Vinyard (NEOUCOM), and the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center. This database includes physiological data from a large number of mammalian species collected by numerous researchers. Its design will allow synthetic and integrative analyses of the evolution of the oropharyngeal apparatus and feeding behaviors in mammals. The public instance of FEED is available at www.feedexp.org