The Kier Lab
Research in the laboratory of William M. Kier focuses on the biomechanics of musculoskeletal systems, the evolution of muscle specialization, cephalopod biology, and biologically inspired robotic devices. An ongoing project investigates the mechanisms of specialization in the muscle of cephalopod mollusks. Recent results of this analysis suggest that modulation of the performance of cephalopod muscle involves changes in the structure, rather than the biochemistry of the muscle, a result that is opposite to what has been observed previously for vertebrate muscle specialization.
Another recent project analyzes the morphology and biomechanics of octopus arms. The results of this analysis suggest that the arms rely on a form of skeletal support termed a “muscular hydrostat”, in which the musculature serves both as the effector of movement and as the skeleton. These insights were used in collaboration with a team of engineers, neurobiologists, and ethologists, to design a new class of “hyperredundant” robotic arms.
Another current project is an examination of the implications of non-uniform strain in the mantle muscle of squid in collaboration with former Ph.D. student, Dr. Joseph T. Thompson, Associate Professor, Franklin and Marshall College. Because of the mantle of squids also operates as a muscular-hydrostat, muscle fibers near the inner surface experience much greater length change during mantle contraction than those located near the outer surface. We are examining the implications of this phenomenon for the structure and function of mantle muscle and connective tissues.