Evolution, Ecology & Organismal Biology

Timothy Higham

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Office: (951) 827-3652
Fax: (951) 827-4286
2219 Spieth Hall
Email: thigham@ucr.edu

Timothy Higham, Associate Professor

Ph.D., University of California, Davis, 2006


Higham lab website 

Note: I am on sabbatical until July 2018 as a Humboldt Fellow at the University of Freiburg and the Museum Koenig in Bonn, Germany.

My lab focuses on the origin and evolution of innovations, integration, and complexity, with a strong emphasis on the ecological context of organismal function. To do this, we integrate biomechanics, comparative physiology, comparative evolutionary methods, and ecology. This naturally combines organismal approaches with sophisticated laboratory techniques. Examples include the functional and evolutionary consequences of gaining and losing adhesion among geckos, the integration of feeding and locomotion among fishes and snakes, the neuromuscular basis of locomotion among anoles and geckos, and the dynamics of tail autotomy among geckos. Our fieldwork is conducted in a number of places, including the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre in British Columbia, Gobabeb in Namibia, South Africa, Nouragues in French Guiana, Trinidad & Tobago, and in the southwest USA.. 

Past and current research initiatives include:

  • The adhesive interactions between geckos and plant surfaces
  • The biomechanics and evolution of gecko locomotion
  • The integration of locomotion and feeding in fishes and snakes
  • Muscle dynamics and biomechanics of vertebrate locomotion
  • Biomechanics and the origin of species
  • The neurobiology and biomechanics of tail autotomy in lizards
  • Physiology, biomechanics and evolution of predator-prey interactions in vertebrates
  • Hydrodynamics and biomechanics of suction feeding in fishes


  • Higham, T.E., H.A. Jamniczky, K. Jagnandan, S.J. Smith, T.N. Barry, and S.M. Rogers. 2017. Comparative dynamics of suction feeding in marine and freshwater three-spined stickleback, Gasterosteus aculeatus: kinematics and geometric morphometrics. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society doi: https://doi.org/10.1093/biolinnean/blx069
  • Foster, K.L. and T.E. Higham. 2017. Integrating gastrocnemius force-length properties, in vivo activation, and operating lengths reveals how Anolis deal with ecological challenges. Journal of Experimental Biology. 220, 796-806
  • Higham, T.E., A.P. Russell, and K.J. Niklas. 2017. Leaping lizards landing on leaves: escape-induced jumps in the rainforest canopy challenge the adhesive limits of geckos. Journal of the Royal Society Interface. 14, 20170156
  • Higham, T.E., R.W. Clark, C.E. Collins, M.D. Whitford, and G.A. Freymiller. 2017. Rattlesnakes are extremely fast and variable when striking at kangaroo rats in nature: Three-dimensional high-speed kinematics at night. Scientific Reports. 7, 40412.
  • Higham, T.E., T. Gamble, and A.P. Russell. 2017.   On the origin of frictional adhesion in geckos:   small morphological changes lead to a major biomechanical transition in the genus Gonatodes.   Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 120, 503-517.
  • Higham, T.E., S.M. Rogers, R.B. Langerhans, H.A. Jamniczky, G.V. Lauder, W.J. Stewart, C.H. Martin, and D.N. Reznick. 2016.   Speciation through the lens of biomechanics:   locomotion, prey capture, and reproductive isolation.   Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 283, 20161294 doi:10.1098/rspb.2016.1294.
  • Birn-Jeffery, A. and T.E. Higham. 2016. Light level impacts locomotor biomechanics in a secondarily diurnal gecko, Rhoptropus afer. Journal of Experimental Biology. 219, 3649-3655.
  • Higham, T.E., W.J. Stewart, and P.C. Wainwright. 2015.   Turbulence, temperature, and turbidity:   The ecomechanics of predator-prey interactions in fishes.   Integrative and Comparative Biology. 55, 6-20
  • Higham, T.E., A. Birn-Jeffery, C.E. Collins, C.D. Hulsey, and A.P. Russell. 2015.   Adaptive simplification and the evolution of gecko locomotion:   Morphological and biomechanical consequences of losing adhesion.   Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 112, 809-814
  • Foster, K.L. and T.E. Higham. 2014.   Context-dependent changes in motor control and kinematics during locomotion:   modulation and decoupling.   Proceedings of the Royal Society B. 281, 20133331. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2013.3331
  • Higham, T.E. and D.I. Irschick. 2013.   Springs, steroids, and slingshots:   the roles of enhancers and constraints in animal movement.   Journal of Comparative Physiology B. 183, 583-595
  • Higham, T.E., K.R. Lipsett, D.A. Syme, and A.P. Russell. 2013.   Controlled chaos:   Three-dimensional kinematics, fiber histochemistry and muscle contractile dynamics of autotomized lizard tails.   Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. 86, 611-630

(click here for a complete publication list)

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