Academic Degrees

  • Ph.D. Zoology (Vertebrate Morphology), University of California at Davis (1980)
  • M.S. Biology, Northern Arizona University (1974)
  • B.S. Zoology, Northern Arizona University (1973)

Courses Taught

  • BIOL 3233 Vertebrate Zoology w/Lab
  • BIOL 4111 Evolution (offered for graduate credit as Biol 5111)
  • BIOL 4235 Mammalogy w/Lab (offered for graduate credit as Biol 5235)
  • BIOL 4293 Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy w/Lab (offered for graduate credit as Biol 5293)
  • BIOL 4600 Senior Seminar
  • BIOL 6070 Graduate Topics in Anatomy (offered for graduate credit only)

Complete course descriptions can be located online at: http://catalog.uncc.edu

Oak Toad

Oak Toad

Research in my lab has focused on understanding the evolution of structure and function in skeletal muscles among vertebrates.

The primary emphasis is on describing the range of contractile properties present in muscles (force properties, contraction and relaxation speed and fatigability).

In the past, my students and I have worked with mammals (cat, opossum), birds (pigeon, owl, hawk), and amphibians – primarily with frogs. We have found that the hopping muscles in frogs are exceptionally powerful, but that even those muscles that we think are primarily used for posture have unusually large motor units.

We discovered that hopping and swimming behaviors require very similar input from the muscles and that the behaviors are derived by modifying a typical quadrupedal gait pattern in almost identical ways, i.e., hopping and swimming evolved together as frogs developed their specialized anatomy and behaviors.



Much work has centered on comparing forelimb muscles between males and females in different frog species. Males have exceptionally enlarged forelimb flexors which maintain the mating embrace, amplexus. These sexually dimorphic muscles are larger, slower to contract and relax, and less fatigable in males.  We recently examined the effects of testosterone on these contractile properties and found that castrated males retain near-normal levels even in the absence of testosterone, suggesting that testosterone triggers masculinization during the young males’ first breeding season, but in the absence of testosterone the properties decline only marginally.  Our results show that testosterone has an enhancing effect on the contractile properties, but is not necessary to maintain them.

We have also done studies on the tongue and jaw muscles in species of frogs that feed differently. These comparative studies should help us to better understand the diversity of structure and function of skeletal muscles which produce the vast diversity of behaviors that we see among the vertebrates.
Selected Publications

  • Kampe, A.R. and S.E. Peters.  2013.  Effects of testosterone on the contractile properties of sexually dimorphic    forelimb muscles in male bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana).  Biology Open 2(9):932-940. Kampe and Peters 2013
  • Peters, S.E. and C.S. Dobbins. 2013.  A comparative study of the mechanics of the pectoralis muscle of the Red-tailed  hawk and Barred owl.  J. Morphol.273:312-323. pdf
  • Crockett, C.J. and S.E. Peters 2008. Hindlimb muscle fiber types in two frogs (Rana catesbeiana and Litoria caerulea) with different locomotor behaviors: histochemical and enzymatic comparison. J. Morphol. 269:365-374. pdf
  • Clark, D.L. and S.E. Peters 2006. Isometric contractile properties of sexually dimorphic forelimb muscles in the marine toad, Bufo marinus: functional analysis and implications for amplexus. J. Exp. Biol. 209:3448-3456. pdf
  • Corvidae, E.L., R.O. Bierregaard and S.E. Peters 2006. Comparison of wing morphology in three birds of prey: Correlations with differences in flight behavior. J. Morphol. 267:612-622. pdf
  • Chadwell, B.A., H.J. Hartwell and S.E. Peters 2002. Comparison of isometric contractile properties in hindlimb extensor muscles of the frogs Rana pipiens and Bufo marinus: Functional correlations with differences in hopping performance. J. Morphol. 251:309-322. pdf
  • Peters, S.E. and D.A. Aulner 2000. Sexual dimorphism in forelimb muscles of the bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana: A functional analysis of isometric contractile properties. J. Exp. Biol. 203:3639-3654. pdf
  • Peters, S.E. and K.C. Nishikawa 1999. Comparison of isometric contractile properties of the tongue muscles in three species of frogs, Litoria caerulea, Dyscophus guinetti and Bufo marinus. J. Morphol. 242: 107-124. pdf
  • Peters, S.E., L.T. Kamel and D.P. Bashor 1996. Hopping and swimming in the leopard frog, Rana pipiens: I. Step cycles and kinematics. J. Morphol. 230:1-16. pdf
  • Kamel, L.T., S.E. Peters and D.P. Bashor 1996. Hopping and swimming in the leopard frog, Rana pipiens: II. A comparison of muscle activities. J. Morphol. 230:17-31. pdf
  • Peters, S.E. 1994. Properties of the twitch motor units of the ankle extensor muscles in the bullfrog Rana catesbeiana. J. Morphol. 221:121-131.
  • Peters, S.E. 1989. Structure and function in vertebrate skeletal muscle. Amer. Zool. 29:221-234.

Current Graduate Students

Past Graduate Students

  • Aaron Kampe, MS  2012.  The effects of testosterone on the functional properties of sexually dimorphic forelimb muscles in male bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana).  Currently Lecturer in Biology Department, UNC Charlotte
  •  Lee Clark. MS, 2005. Thesis title: A Comparison of Isometric Contractile Properties of Sexually Dimorphic Forelimb Muscles in the Marine Toad, Bufo marinus
  • Elaine Corvidae. MS, 2005. Thesis title: A Comparison of Wing Morphology in Three Birds of Prey: Correlations with differences in flight behavior. Currently on rehabilitation staff at Carolina Raptor Center, Charlotte, NC.
  • Brad Chadwell. MS, 1999. Thesis title: A Comparison of Hindlimb Muscles in Two Anurans: Contractile Properties and Fiber Types.  Ph.D. completed, Biology Department , Wake Forest University.  Currently postdoc.”
  • Dwane Aulner. MS 1996. Thesis title: Sexual Dimorphism in the Forelimb of the North American Bullfrog: A Functional Comparison. Currently on biology faculty at Community College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas.
  • Patricia Boland. MS 1996. Thesis title: Comparison of Motor Pools in Two Amphibians: A Test of Neuroanatomical Conservatism. Currently teaches human anatomy & physiology, and general zoology at Medaille College, NY.
  • Charles Dobbins. MS 1993. Thesis title: A Comparative Study of the Mechanics of the Pectoralis Muscle of the Red-tailed Hawk and the Barred Owl.  Currently Lecturer in Biology, Catawba College, NC.
  • Lynn Kamel. MS 1992. Thesis title: Frog Hindlimb Muscle Activity in Hopping and Swimming: An Electromyographic Analysis.
  • Robert Jones. MS 1992. Thesis title: A Model for the Evolution of the Phylum Cnidaria, Evaluated Cladistically. I was a co-Advisor on his thesis with our Cell Biologist.
  • Terry Chapman. MS 1989. Thesis title: Evolution of the Carnivora: An Immunological Comparison of the families Mustelidae and Viverridae. I was co-Advisor with our Immunologist.
  • Greg Cornwell. MS 1985. Thesis title: Sonographic Analysis of Pine Warbler Vocalizations. I took over completion of this thesis from another faculty member who left UNC Charlotte.

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