Richard W. Blob


Contact Information

Phone: 864 656-3602
FAX: 864 656-0435


  • Ph.D. Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago, 1998
  • M.S. Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago, 1995
  • B.A. Individualized Studies (Paleobiology); Biology, University of Pennsylvania, 1992

Research Interests

I am broadly interested the evolution of musculoskeletal function in animals. To understand how animals perform the tasks that allow them to survive, I test the functional consequences of variation in biological design through experimental studies of musculoskeletal biomechanics, primarily in vertebrate systems. To understand how function evolves, I take a comparative approach to these analyses, conducting studies in a phylogenetic context and frequently drawing on data from the fossil record as well as extant species. Studies of vertebrate locomotion are a particular focus in my lab, and our recent research in this area has included studies of (1) the evolution of limb bone safety factors through studies of limb bone loading in amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and fossil mammal-like reptiles, (2) the kinematics and hydrodynamics of aquatic locomotion in turtles, (3) how muscle function changes between locomotor behaviors in alligators and turtles, (4) comparisons of limb bone allometry among reptilian, amphibian, and mammalian lineages, and (5) comparisons of the mechanics of waterfall climbing among species of Hawaiian gobioid fishes. I am also generally interested in bone biomechanics, and my lab has initiated long term work examining the evolution of the mechanical properties of vertebrate limb bones and deer antler, with a particular emphasis on the application of phylogenetic comparative methods in these analyses. Other projects include examinations of feeding and sucker function in gobioid fishes, studies of musculoskeletal function in insects, and paleoecological and taphonomic studies of Cretaceous fossil assemblages from North America.

Selected Publications

    • Kawano, S. M., R. W. Blob.  2013.  Propulsive forces of mudskipper fins and salamander limbs during terrestrial locomotion:  implications for the invasion of land.  Integrative and Comparative Biology 53:283-294.
    • Rivera, A. R. V., R. W. Blob.  2013.  Forelimb muscle function in pig-nosed turtles, Carettochelys insculpta: testing neuromotor conservation between rowing and flapping in swimming turtles.  Biology Letters 9:20130471.
    • Kawano, S. M., W. C. Bridges, H. L. Schoenfuss, T. Maie, R. W. Blob.  2013.  Differences in locomotor behavior correspond to different patterns of linear and nonlinear morphological selection in two species of waterfall-climbing gobiid fishes.  Evolutionary Ecology, 27:949-969.
    • Cullen, J. A., T. Maie, H. L. Schoenfuss, R. W. Blob.  2013.  Evolutionary novelty versus exaptation:  Oral kinematics in feeding versus climbing in the waterfall-climbing Hawaiian goby Sicyopterus stimpsoni.  PLoS ONE 8:e53274, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0053274.
    • Rivera, A. R. V., G. Rivera, R. W. Blob.  2013.  Forelimb kinematics during swimming in the pig-nosed turtle, Carettochelys insculpta, compared with other turtle taxa: rowing versus flapping, convergence versus intermediacy. Journal of Experimental Biology 216:668-680.
    • Maie, T., H. L. Schoenfuss, R. W. Blob.  2012.  Performance and scaling of a novel locomotor structure:  adhesive capacity of climbing gobiid fishes.  Journal of Experimental Biology 215:3925-3936.  (Featured Inside JEB)
    • Rivera, A. R. V., J. Davis, W. Grant, R. W. Blob, E. Peterson, A. Neiman, M. Rowe.  2012.  Quantifying utricular stimulation during natural behavior.  Journal of Experimental Zoology 317A:467-480.
    • Leonard, G., T. Maie, K. Moody, G. Schrank, R.W. Blob, H. L. Schoenfuss.  2012.  Finding paradise:  cues directing the migration of the waterfall climbing Hawaiian gobioid fish Sicyopterus stimpsoni.  Journal of Fish Biology 81:903-920.
    • Schoenfuss, H. L., T. Maie, S. M. Kawano, R. W. Blob.  2011.  Performance across extreme environments: comparing waterfall climbing among amphidromous gobioid fishes from Caribbean and Pacific islands.  Cybium 35:361-369.
    • Maie, T., A. B. Meister, G. L. Leonard, G. D. Schrank, R. W. Blob, H. L. Schoenfuss.  2011.  Jaw muscle fiber type distribution in Hawaiian gobioid stream fishes:  histochemical correlations with feeding ecology and behavior.  Zoology (Jena) 114:340-347.
    • Gosnell, W. C., M. T. Butcher, T. Maie, R. W. Blob.  2011.  Femoral loading mechanics in the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana): torsion and mediolateral bending in mammalian locomotion.  Journal of Experimental Biology 214:3455-3466.
    • Rivera, A. R. V., J. Wyneken, R. W. Blob.   2011.   Forelimb kinematics and motor patterns of swimming loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta):  are motor patterns conserved in the evolution of new locomotor strategies?  Journal of Experimental Biology 214:3314-3323.
    • Butcher, M. T., B. J. White, N. B. Hudzik, W. C. Gosnell, J. H. A. Parrish, R. W. Blob.  2011.  In vivo strains in the femur of the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) during terrestrial locomotion: testing hypotheses of evolutionary shifts in mammalian bone loading and design.  Journal of Experimental Biology 214:2631-2640.
    • Sheffield, K. M., M. T. Butcher, S. K. Shugart, J. C. Gander, R. W. Blob.  2011.  Locomotor loading mechanics in the hindlimbs of tegu lizards (Tupinambis merianae): comparative and evolutionary implications. Journal of Experimental Biology 214:2616-2630.
    • Sheffield, K. M., R. W. Blob.  2011.  Loading mechanics of the femur in tiger salamanders (Ambystoma tigrinum) during terrestrial locomotion. Journal of Experimental Biology 214:2603-2615.
    • Rivera, G., A. R. V. Rivera, R. W. Blob.  2011.  Hydrodynamic stability of the painted turtle (Chrysemys picta): effects of four-limbed rowing versus forelimb flapping in rigid-bodied tetrapods.  Journal of Experimental Biology 214:1153-1162.
    • Blob, R. W., S. M. Kawano, K. N. Moody, W. C. Bridges, T. Maie, M. B. Ptacek, M. L. Julius, H. L. Schoenfuss.  2010.  Morphological selection and the evaluation of potential tradeoffs between escape from predators and the climbing of waterfalls in the Hawaiian stream goby Sicyopterus stimpsoni.  Integrative and Comparative Biology 50:1185-1199.
    • Schoenfuss, H. L., J. D. Roos, A. R. V. Rivera, R. W. Blob.  2010.  Motor patterns of distal hind limb muscles in walking turtles:  implications for models of limb bone loading.  Journal of Morphology 271:1527-1536.
    • Gardner, J. D., Z. Rocek, T. Prikryl, J. G. Eaton, R. W. Blob, J. T. Sankey.  2010.  Comparative morphology of the ilium of anurans and urodeles (Lissamphibia) and a re-assessment of the anuran affinities of Nezpercius dodsoni Blob et al., 2001.  Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30:1684-1696.
    • Rivera, A. R. V., R. W. Blob.  2010.  Forelimb kinematics and motor patterns of the slider turtle (Trachemys scripta) during swimming and walking:  shared and novel strategies for meeting locomotor demands of water and land.  Journal of Experimental Biology 213:3515-3528.
    • Wilson, M. P., N. R. Espinoza, S. R. Shah, R. W. Blob.  2009.  Mechanical properties of the hindlimb bones of bullfrogs and cane toads in bending and torsion.  The Anatomical Record292:935-944.
    • Maie, T., H. L. Schoenfuss, R. W. Blob.  2009.  Jaw lever analysis of Hawaiian gobioid stream fishes: a simulation study of morphological diversity and functional performance.  Journal of Morphology 270:976-983.
    • Maie, T., M. P. Wilson, H. L. Schoenfuss, R. W. Blob.  2009.  Feeding kinematics and performance of Hawaiian stream gobies, Awaous guamensis and Lentipes concolor:  linkage of functional morphology and ecology. Journal of Morphology 270:344-356.
    • Gosnell, J. S., G. Rivera, R. W. Blob.  2009.  A phylogenetic analysis of sexual size dimorphism in turtles.   Herpetologica65:70-81.
    • Blob, R. W., W. C. Bridges, T. Maie, R. A. Cediel, M. M. Bertolas, M. B. Ptacek, M. L. Julius, H. L. Schoenfuss.  2008.  Morphological selection in an extreme flow environment:  body shape and waterfall-climbing success in the Hawaiian stream fish Sicyopterus stimpsoni.  Integrative and Comparative Biology48:734-749.
    • Butcher, M. T., N. R. Espinoza, S. R. Cirilo, R. W. Blob.  2008.  In vivo strains in the femur of river cooter turtles (Pseudemys concinna) during terrestrial locomotion:  test of force-platform models of loading mechanics. Journal of Experimental Biology 211:2397-2407.
    • Butcher, M. T., R. W. Blob.  2008.  Mechanics of limb bone loading during terrestrial locomotion in river cooter turtles (Pseudemys concinna).  Journal of Experimental Biology211:1187-1202.
    • Cediel, R. A., R. W. Blob, G. D. Schrank, R. Plourde, and H. L. Schoenfuss. 2008. Muscle fiber type distribution in climbing Hawaiian gobioid fishes: ontogeny and correlations with locomotor performance.  Zoology (Jena)111:114-122.
    • Shah, S. R., J. D. DesJardins, and R. W. Blob.  2008.  Antler stiffness in caribou (Rangifer tarandus): testing variation in bone material properties between males and females.  Zoology (Jena)111:476-482.
    • Blob, R. W., A. R. V. Rivera, and M. W. Westneat. 2008. Hindlimb function in turtle locomotion: limb movements and muscular activation across taxa, environment, and ontogeny. Chapter 6 in J. Wyneken, M. H. Godfrey, and V. Bels, (eds.), Biology of Turtles, CRC Press, pp. 139-162.
    • Blob, R. W., Wright, K. M., Becker, M., Maie, T., Iverson, T. J., Julius, M. L., and Schoenfuss, H. L. 2007.Ontogenic change in functions: Waterfall climbing in adult Hawaiina gobiid fishes. Journal of Zoology 273: 200-209.
    • Rivera, G., Rivera, A. R. V., Dougherty, E. E., and Blob, R. W.  2006.  Aquatic turning performance of painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) and functional consequences of a rigid body design.  Journal of Experimental Biology 209: 4203-4213.
    • Blob, R. W., and J. M. Snelgrove.  2006.  Antler stiffness in moose (Alces alces): correlated evolution of bone function and material properties?  Journal of Morphology  267:1075-1086.
    • Blob, R. W., R. Rai, R., M. L. Julius, and H. L. Schoenfuss.  2006.  Functional diversity in extreme environments:  effects of locomotor style and substrate texture on the waterfall climbing performance of Hawaiian gobiid fishes. Journal of Zoology 268:315-324.
    • Blob, R. W.  2006.  Scaling of the hindlimb skeleton in cynognathian cynodonts:  implications for ontogeny and thermoregulation.  In M. T. Carrano, T. J. Gaudin, R. W. Blob, and J. R. Wible (eds.), Amniote Paleobiology: Perspectives on the Evolution of Mammals, Birds, and Reptiles, University of Chicago Press, pp. 410-431.
    • Reilly, S. M., J. S. Willey , A. R. Biknevicius, and R. W. Blob.  2005.  Locomotor dynamics in a semi-erect posture:  integrating movements, motor patterns, ground reaction forces and bone strains of hindlimb locomotion in the alligator.  Journal of Experimental Biology 208:993-1009
    • Reilly, S. M., and R. W. Blob. 2003. Motor control of locomotor hindlimb posture in the American alligator (Allligator mississippiensis). Journal of Experimental Biology 206:4327-4340.
    • Schoenfuss, H. L., and R. W. Blob. 2003. Kinematics of waterfall climbing in Hawaiian freshwater fishes (Gobiidae): vertical propulsion at the aquatic-terrestrial interface. Journal of Zoology 261:191-205.
    • Gillis, G. B. and R. W. Blob. 2001. How muscles accommodate movement in different physical environments: aquatic versus terrestrial locomotion. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology A 131:61-75.
    • Blob, R. W. and A. A. Biewener. 2001. Mechanics of limb bone loading during terrestrial locomotion in the green iguana (Iguana iguana) and American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis). Journal of Experimental Biology 204:1099-1122.
    • Blob, R. W. 2001. Evolution of hindlimb posture in non-mammalian therapsids: biomechanical tests of paleontological hypotheses. Paleobiology 27:14-38.

Recent Courses

  • BIOSC 845 - Understanding Vertebrate Biology (online Masters Program)
  • BIOSC 303/307 - Vertebrate Biology
  • BIOSC 408/608, 409/609 - Comparative Vertebrate Morphology
  • BIOSC 490 - Special topics, Vertebrate Paleobiology
  • BIOSC 490 - Speical topics, Animal Biomechanics
  • BIOSC 490 - Special topics, Tropical Biodiversity - Dominica

Graduate Students

  • Sandy Kawano
  • Vanessa Young
  • Christopher Mayerl
  • Kelly Diamond

Professional Affiliations

  • American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists
  • Herpetological Association of Africa
  • Herpetologists' League
  • International Society of Vertebrate Morphologists
  • Sigma Xi
  • Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
  • Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles
  • Society of Vertebrate Paleontology