Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Biological Sciences

Document Type



Lampreys (Petromyzontiformes) are jawless vertebrates with an evolutionary history lasting at least 360 million years and are often used in comparisons with jawed vertebrates because some of their morphological aspects, such as the segmented trunk musculature with curved myosepta and a non-mineralized skeleton fibrous skeleton, are thought to resemble the condition of early vertebrates before the evolution of jaws. Although earlier authors studied the morphology of the skeleto-muscular system of the trunk of lampreys, their studies are not detailed and complete enough to allow a functional and biomechanical analysis that is needed as a basis for modeling the mechanics of lamprey locomotion and for understanding the causal roles played by the anatomical structures within the trunk. Questions remain, such as what is the architecture of the trunk fibroskeleton, and how does it function with the musculature to bend the trunk? This dissertation studied the functional, ecological and evolutionary morphology of the trunk of Sea Lampreys (Petromyzon marinus) as well as its relevance in understanding the environmental history of landlocked lamprey populations. Functional morphology revealed that the fibroskeleton of the trunk is a self-supporting concatenated system of fibers, which creates a scaffold for the musculature and transmits forces to bend the trunk during swimming. Ecological morphology demonstrated the adaptive advantage of the fibroskeleton’s architecture, which enables the movements that are performed during migration and spawning and gives lampreys the capacity to colonize upstream realms. These results help explain the evolutionary morphology of lampreys, which likely originated in freshwater as algal feeders and evolved into parasites after going through an intermediary scavenging stage. When these insights are applied to the evolution of landlocked Sea Lampreys, it becomes evident that their entry into freshwater lakes occurred as soon as they were able to reach them and that populations likely became established in Lake Ontario, Lake Champlain, and the Finger Lakes thousands of years ago. This insight undermines the current status of landlocked Sea Lampreys as invasive species in these lakes and the case for their eradication. Hence, this dissertation provides a comprehensive and integrative analysis of lamprey biology from their anatomy to environmental policy.



Committee Chair

Homberger, Dominique

Included in

Biology Commons