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William M. Kier


Contact Information

Office: 313B Wilson Hall (Lab)
Email: billkier[at]
Office Phone: (919) 962-5017 (Lab Office)
Lab Phone: (919) 962-5868

Kier Lab Website

Research Description

William M. Kier is interested in the comparative biomechanics of marine invertebrates. He is especially interested in the functional morphology of musculoskeletal systems, in the structure, function, development and evolution of muscle, and in invertebrate zoology, with particular emphasis on the biology of cephalopod molluscs (octopus and squid). His research is conducted at a variety of levels and integrates the range from the behavior of the entire animal to the ultrastructure and biochemistry of its tissues. A variety of techniques are used including normal and high-speed video, histological and histochemical methods, light and transmission electron microscopy, electromyography, muscle mechanics, biochemistry and molecular techniques. His research concerns the role of the musculature of cephalopods (squid, octopus, nautilus) in both creating movement and providing skeletal support. The principles derived from this analysis have been applied to other structures such as the tongues of mammals and lizards and the trunk of the elephant. More recently, these insights have been used in collaboration with engineers and biologists in the design and construction of novel robotic mechanisms. He is also investigating the mechanisms of the evolution of muscle specialization, especially the evolution of fast contraction in the muscle of cephalopods. Please visit the Kier Lab home page for more information on these topics.

Prospective Graduate Students: Applications for graduate study should be submitted directly to the Department of Biology, rather than to the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Program (BBSP). Information on applying to the Department of Biology graduate program in Evolution, Ecology and Organismal Biology is available here.

Photograph of histological cross-section of the tentacle of Loligo pealei.

Photograph of newly molted blue crab, Callinectes sapidus. Dr. Jennifer Taylor, a recent Ph.D. student in the Kier lab, showed that many crustaceans switch to a hydrostatic skeleton immediately following shedding of the rigid skeleton. For more information please visit the Kier Lab home.