Southern Illinois University Edwardsville Logo
Apply to SIUE
College of Arts & Sciences

College of Arts & Sciences
Institutional Header

Welcome to the Essner Lab

Richard L. Essner, Jr.

Professor of Biological Sciences

B.S., M.N.S. Biology, Southeast Missouri State University

Ph.D. Biological Sciences, Ohio University

Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Pennsylvania

       Scanning for ICF

Our primary research interests are in anuran functional and ecological morphology, especially the evolution of jumping locomotion. We combine the traditional tools of functional morphology with techniques from behavioral, ecological, and physiological research to quantify the locomotor form-function complex. We use the comparative method to test hypotheses about the evolution of locomotor novelty.

Current research interests include:

Evolution of anuran jumping locomotion  

We are examining locomotor behavior in a diverse array of taxa, including leiopelmatid frogs (Tailed Frogs + New Zealand Frogs), which diverged from all other frogs around 200 million years ago! This research has involved collaborations with the Reilly Lab at Ohio University and the Bishop Lab at the University of Otago (NZ). 

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog

Rocky Mountain Tailed Frog, Ascaphus montanus (credit: Howard Ash).

Locomotor tradeoffs associated with anuran miniaturization

Frogs have evolved miniaturization repeatedly and are among the world's smallest vertebrates. Small body size is a successful evolutionary strategy, but comes with costs. These can be predicted based upon physical laws. We are currently studying locomotor tradeoffs in pumpkin toadlets (Brachycephalidae), a clade of miniaturized frogs from Brazil's Atlantic Forest. This research involves collaborations with the Pie Lab at Edge Hill University (UK), the Moura Lab at the Universidade Federal do Paraná (Brazil), and the Blackburn Lab at the Florida Museum of Natural History/University of Florida. Check out our new Science Advances paper on uncontrolled landing behavior in miniaturized pumpkin toadlets!

Brachycephalus Essner Photo

Brachycephalus coloratus, a newly described species of pumpkin toadlet from the Atlantic Forest of southern Brazil (Credit: Luiz F. Ribeiro).

Ribeiro LF, Blackburn DC, Stanley EL, Pie MR, Bornschein MR. (2017) Two new species of the Brachycephalus pernix group (Anura: Brachycephalidae) from the state of Paraná, southern Brazil. PeerJ 5:e3603

Conservation of the State-threatened Illinois Chorus Frog

We are conducting ongoing research on a a state-threatened amphibian species found on our campus. The Illinois Chorus Frog, Pseudacris streckeri illinoensis, lives in isolated sand prairies of Northwest Arkansas, Southeast Missouri, and Southern and Central Illinois. Illinois chorus frogs are unusual because of their extreme fossoriality and forward-burrowing behavior. We use mark-recapture techniques to study population demography and spatial activity. We are also studying their feeding behavior, locomotor behavior, and diet. 

Illinois Chorus Frog

Illinois Chorus Frog, Pseudacris streckeri illinoensis (Credit: R. Essner).

I teach courses in Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy, Vertebrate Natural History,  Human Anatomy and Physiology, Evolutionary Medicine,  Ornithology, Mammalogy, and Wildlife Management. I also teach summer field courses to the northern Rockies and Panama with Dr. Peter Minchin.

Here's our paper on belly-flopping leiopelmatid frogs

Here's a link to the videos

Media Coverage

Contact Information

Richard L. Essner, Jr., Ph.D.
Department of Biological Sciences, Box 1651
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Edwardsville, IL 62026

Office: Science West 1115 
Lab: Science West 0220

Phone: (618) 650-2338
Fax: (618) 650-3174

Useful Links: Library, Blackboard, Department of Biological Sciences, Cascade, Webmail, Google

facebookoff twitteroff vineoff linkedinoff flickeroff instagramoff socialoff