Karen Sears

Professor and Department Chair

email: ksears@ucla.edu
office: 4113 Life Sciences Building (LSB)

Recent Courses

Research Interests

Organismal form is the product of a complex suite of interacting developmental processes. Variation in these processes allows mammals to adapt to changing environments, but also generates congenital malformations in humans. Developmental variation therefore presents a unifying concept for evolutionary biology and biomedicine, whose understanding is critical to the success of both fields. My primary research goals are to determine how developmental variation interacts with environmental factors within a species to produce congenital malformations in humans, and among species to generate new evolutionary adaptations in mammals. To pursue these goals, I characterize developmental variation across biological scales, and interpret how this variation drives evolution and malformations in form. I incorporate data from fields from paleontology to mathematics to genomics to developmental biology. I also study multiple model and non-model mammals (e.g., mouse, bat, cat, deer, horse, pig, opossum). I use this approach to investigate three major topics: mammalian limb evolution and development, major evolutionary transformations during mammalian evolution, and mammalian sensory system evolution.

Selected Publications

Yohe LR, Davies KTJ, Simmons NB, Sears KE, Dumont ER, Rossiter SJ, Dávalos LM, "Evaluating the performance of targeted sequence capture, RNA-Seq, and degenerate-primer PCR cloning for sequencing the largest mammalian multigene family", Molecular ecology resources, - (2019) .

Kelly, E., Marcot, J., Selwood, L., Sears, K.E., "The development of integration in marsupial and placental limbs", Integrative Organismal Biology, - (2019) [link].

Hedrick, B.P., Mutumi, G.L., Munteanu, V.D., Sadier, A., Davies, K.T.J., Rossiter, S.J., Sears, K.E., Davalos, L.M., Dumont, E.R., "Morphological diversification under high integration in a hyper-diverse mammal clade", Journal of Mammalian Evolution, - (2019) [link].

Cooper LN, Sears KE, Armfield BA, Kala B, Hubler M, Thewissen JGM, "Review and experimental evaluation of the embryonic development and evolutionary history of flipper development and hyperphalangy in dolphins (Cetacea: Mammalia)", Genesis (New York, N.Y. : 2000), 56 (1): - (2018) .

Teeling, E., Vernes, S., Davalos, L.M., Ray, D.A., Gilbert, M.T.P., Myers, E., Bat1K Consortium (includes Sears, K.E.), "Bat biology, genomes, and the Bat1K project: To generate chromosome-level genomes for all living bat species", Annual Review of Animal Biosciences, 56 (1): 23-46 (2018) [link].

Sears, K.E., Maier, J.A., Sadier, A., Sorensen, D., Urban, D.J., "Timing the developmental origins of mammalian limb diversity", Genesis, 56 (1): - (2018) [link].

Sadier A, Davies KT, Yohe LR, Yun K, Donat P, Hedrick BP, Dumont ER, Dávalos LM, Rossiter SJ, Sears KE, "Multifactorial processes underlie parallel opsin loss in neotropical bats", eLife, 7 : - (2018) .

Yohe LR, Abubakar R, Giordano C, Dumont E, Sears KE, Rossiter SJ, Dávalos LM, "Trpc2 pseudogenization dynamics in bats reveal ancestral vomeronasal signaling, then pervasive loss", Evolution; international journal of organic evolution, 71 (4): 923-935 (2017) .

Maier JA, Rivas-Astroza M, Deng J, Dowling A, Oboikovitz P, Cao X, Behringer RR, Cretekos CJ, Rasweiler JJ 4th, Zhong S, Sears KE, "Transcriptomic insights into the genetic basis of mammalian limb diversity", BMC evolutionary biology, 17 (1): 86- (2017) .

Anthwal, N., Urban, D.J., Luo, Z-X., Sears, K.E., and Tucker, A., "Breakdown of Meckel's cartilage provides clues to the evolution of mammals", Nature Ecology and Evolution, 17 (1): - (2017) [link].