Gabriel E. A. GartnerPh.D. student, Physiology
B.S. Biology, Cornell University (2002)
I am broadly interested in vertebrate biology. A central theme of my research is to understand what patterns and processes are responsible for shaping organismal "design." My undergraduate thesis work at Cornell (with Harry Greene) focused on the link between the morphology and feeding performance in the highly specialized, obligate egg-eating snake, Dasypeltis scabra. We would expect there to be strong selection on the morphology and associated feeding performance in such gape-limited predators as snakes (even more so in dietary specialists). My study showed that a significant performance advantage does exist in egg-eating ability in Dasypeltis relative to a dietary generalist species of snake, thus lending support to adaptive hypotheses regarding the evolution of egg-eating morphology in these snakes. Future questions will focus, to some extent, on how variation in morphology affects performance and Darwinian fitness in nature. Do organisms that perform best exhibit the highest fitness? How does performance in a laboratory reflect performance in a natural setting? While some work has certainly been done on these questions, the relationships between morphology, performance, and fitness still remains a compelling question in biology, and it is here that I will focus my efforts while searching for a dissertation project. I am currently working on two collaborative projects. The first involves analysis of snake heart positions in relation to ecology and phylogeny. The second involves the ecological correlates of interspecific variation in scale counts and body size in Sceloporus lizards.