Kathleen Kovalevski Smith

Professor Emerita of Biology

Office: 
130 Science Drive, Room 122 Duke Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708
Campus Box: 
Box 90338, Durham, NC 27708-0338
Phone: 
(919) 684-3402
My current work is a focus on the relation between evolution and development in the mammalian skull. My model system involves comparisons of development in placental and marsupial mammals. These mammals are characterized by different developmental trajectories, extending back to some of the earliest events of differentiation, largely as a result of their different life history adaptations. My work focuses on a number of different questions. First, what are the differences in the development of the craniofacial region in marsupial and placental mammals? The head is particularly important in the comparison between marupials and placentals, as many cranial systems must be functional at birth in marsupials, despite the fact that morphogenesis has just started. Second, how do the differences in the developmental pattern reflect the necessities of the marsupial reproductive strategy? What is the adaptive significance of the developmental differences and what constraints might be operating? Here I am looking at development not as merely a means to produce an adult, but as a feature that has an evolutionary significance of its own. Third, what can this comparative approach tell us about mammalian head development in general? There are many differences in the way the head develops in marsupials and placentals. It is reasonable to assume that those elements that develop independently (e.g., appear in different temporal or spatial sequences in the two taxa) are elements that are not mechanistically linked or integrated, whereas those that are consistently associated in the two taxa, despite changes in other structures, may be linked by developmental mechanisms. I am using this comparative approach to examine developmental integration and plasticity. Fourth, what are the developmental mechanisms underlying these evolutionary changes? The most significant differences in development in the two taxa reflect differences in the relative timing of the development of the central nervous system and somatic structures. Hypotheses on many levels have been proposed on the possible mechanistic relations between the development of the CNS and the cranial skeleton. To what extent can these hypotheses on mechanistic relation be tested by comparing events in organisms in which the elements are shifted dramatically in time or space? The comparison is, in essence, a natural experiment. Finally, have the specific developmental patterns of marsupial and placental mammals had an impact on the evolutionary diversity and success of these organisms?

My current project focuses on the earliest patterning events. These projects include a study of heterochronies in the earliest morphological and genetic events in the head of marsupial and placental mammals, a study of neural crest in marupial mammals, and a study of patterns of Hox gene expression along the developing body axis, relations between the brain and cranial skeleton.

Education

  • Ph.D., Harvard University 1980

  • B.A., University of California - Santa Cruz 1973

Carpenter, S. R., E. V. Armbrust, P. W. Arzberger, F. S. Chapín, J. J. Elser, E. J. Hackett, A. R. Ives, et al. “Accelerate synthesis in ecology and environmental sciences.” Bioscience 59, no. 8 (September 1, 2009): 699–701. https://doi.org/10.1525/bio.2009.59.8.11. Full Text

Moustakas, Jacqueline E., Kathleen K. Smith, and Leslea J. Hlusko. “The evolution and development of the mammalian dentition: Insights from the marsupial Monodelphis domestica.” Developmental Biology 331, no. 2 (July 2009): 461–461. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.05.280. Full Text

Carreno, C. A., and K. K. Smith. “Limb specification and growth initiation in Xenopus laevis: Possible heterochronic mechanisms.” Integrative and Comparative Biology 49 (February 1, 2009): E208–E208.

Keyte, Anna L., and Kathleen K. Smith. “Monodelphis whole-embryo culture.Csh Protocols 2008 (January 2008): pdb.prot5075. https://doi.org/10.1101/pdb.prot5075. Full Text

Keyte, Anna L., and Kathleen K. Smith. “Whole-mount in situ hybridization in monodelphis embryos.Csh Protocols 2008 (January 2008): pdb.prot5076. https://doi.org/10.1101/pdb.prot5076. Full Text

Keyte, Anna L., and Kathleen K. Smith. “Harvesting monodelphis embryos.Csh Protocols 2008 (January 2008): pdb.prot5074. https://doi.org/10.1101/pdb.prot5074. Full Text

Keyte, Anna L., and Kathleen K. Smith. “Opossum (Monodelphis domestica): A Marsupial Development Model.Csh Protocols 2008 (January 2008): pdb.emo104. https://doi.org/10.1101/pdb.emo104. Full Text

Keyte, Anna L., and Kathleen K. Smith. “Basic Maintenance and Breeding of the Opossum Monodelphis domestica.Csh Protocols 2008 (January 2008): pdb.prot5073. https://doi.org/10.1101/pdb.prot5073. Full Text

Keyte, Anna L., Tanbeena Imam, and Kathleen K. Smith. “Limb heterochrony in the marsupial Monodelphis domestica.” Journal of Morphology 268, no. 12 (December 1, 2007): 1092–1092.

Smith, K. K. “Kathleen K. Smith: Integrating the levels of evolution.” Bioscience 56, no. 6 (June 1, 2006): 470–74. https://doi.org/10.1641/0006-3568(2006)56[470:KKSITL]2.0.CO;2. Full Text

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Selected Grants

Crainofacial Development In Eutherian And Metatherian Mamm awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 1992 to 1994

Research Experiences For Undergraduate Supplement awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 1991 to 1992

Craniofacial Development In Eutherian And Metatherian Mamm awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 1990 to 1992

Reu Supplement To Craniofacial Development In Eutherian An awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 1992

Morphological Basis Of Tongue Movement And Control awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 1987 to 1989

The Morphological Basis Of Tongue Movement And Control awarded by National Institutes of Health (Principal Investigator). 1986 to 1988

Morphology, Function And Evolution Of Tongue And Hycid awarded by National Science Foundation (Principal Investigator). 1986 to 1987

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