Kiisa C. Nishikawa

Nishikawa 120X170

Regents' Professor  
Phone: 928-523-9497
Office: Building 88, Room 212
Research website 

Research/teaching interests

  • biomechanics and neural control of ballistic movement

Academic highlights

  • Miller Fellow, Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, University of California, Berkeley, 1985-1987
  • Postdoctoral Fellow, Dept. of Anatomy, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1985
  • PhD: Zoology, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC, 1985
  • BS: Biology, State University of New York, Albany, NY, 1980

The unifying theme of my research is the evolution of behavior. My interest in how behavior evolves has led to interdisciplinary studies in a wide range of fields, including evolutionary ecology, behavioral neuroscience, biomechanics and muscle physiology.

My earlier work focused on the ecological and behavioral interactions of salamanders in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.  More recent studies have investigated the neural basis of behavior in amphibians, specifically the swimming behavior of frog tadpoles and the visually guided prey capture behavior of salamanders. 

My current research has three components:

  1. evolutionary studies of the biomechanics and neural control of prey capture in frogs;
  2. studies of the more general problem of how brains and nervous systems evolve; and
  3. studies of the mechanisms of power amplification in muscles that produce ballistic movements, including prey capture and jumping in frogs and prey capture in chameleons.

Whereas my research has focused on these questions, I have worked on diverse projects with my graduate students whose research interests range broadly in the areas of neuroethology, comparative physiology and ecomorphology.

This is a frame taken from high-speed video of a toad (Bufo woodhousii) ballistically projecting its tongue to capture a cricket. The tongue lengthens over 200% of resting length.

Selected publications

Nishikawa, K.C. 1999. Neuromuscular control of prey capture in frogs. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, Biological Sciences 354:941-954. 

Meyers, J.J. & K.C. Nishikawa. 2000. Comparative study of tongue protrusion in three iguanian lizards: Sceloporus undulatus, Pseudotrapelus sinaitus and Chamaeleo jacksonii. Journal of Experimental Biology 202:2833-2849.

Mallett, E.S., G. Yamaguchi, J.M. Birch & K.C. Nishikawa. 2001. Feeding motor patterns in anurans: Insights from biomechanical modeling. American Zoologist 41:1364-1374.

Nishikawa, K.C. 2002. Evolutionary convergence in nervous systems: Insights from comparative phylogenetic studies. Brain, Behavior and Evolution 59:240-249.

Meyers, J.J., J.C. O'Reilly, J.A. Monroy & K.C. Nishikawa. 2004. Mechanism of tongue protraction in microhylid frogs. Journal of Experimental Biology 207:21-31.