“Each living creature must be looked at as a microcosm, formed of a host of self propagating organisms, as numerous as the stars in heaven.” — Charles Darwin

Angela R. V. Rivera

Resident Assistant Professor
Comparative Physiology & Biomechanics

Ph.D. – Clemson University, 2011
M.S. – Old Dominion University, 2004
B.S. – Old Dominion University, 2000

Department of Biology
Creighton University
2500 California Plaza
Omaha, NE 68178-0103
Office: Eppley 436


Courses Offered

Research Interests

My research is broadly focused on understanding the evolution of locomotion and motor control. Using a comparative approach grounded in the fields of physiology and biomechanics, I aim to understand how muscle function is modulated to accommodate the diverse performance demands that limbs encounter. Of particular interest is how muscles handle the mechanical demands imposed by movement through aquatic and terrestrial environments, and whether patterns of neuromotor modulation differ between generalized (i.e., semi-aquatic) and specialized (i.e., highly aquatic and highly terrestrial) species. I also examine the modifications associated with novel modes of locomotion. I primarily use a combination of laboratory observations, electromyography, and high-speed kinematic analysis to examine locomotion at the level of the muscle and the whole animal. My research employs concepts from muscle physiology, comparative anatomy, biomechanics, functional morphology, and evolution to understand animal locomotion.

Scholarly Works


Blob, R. W., C. J. Mayerl, A. R. V. Rivera, G. Rivera, and V. K. H. Young. In review. “On the Fence” versus “All in”: Insights from turtles for the evolution of aquatic locomotor specializations and habitat transitions in tetrapod vertebrates. Integrative and Comparative Biology.

Rivera, A. R. V. and R. W. Blob. 2013. Forelimb muscle function in pig-nosed turtles, Carettochelys insculpta: testing neuromotor conservation between rowing and flapping in swimming turtles. Biology Letters, 9: 20130471.

Rivera, A. R. V., G. Rivera, and R. W. Blob. 2013. Forelimb kinematics during swimming in the pig-nosed turtle, Carettochelys insculpta, compared with other turtle taxa: rowing versus flapping, convergence versus intermediacy. Journal of Experimental Biology, 216: 668-680.

Rivera, A. R. V., J. Davis, W. Grant, R. W. Blob, E. Peterson, A. B. Neiman, M. Rowe. 2012. Quantifying utricular stimulation during natural behavior. Journal of Experimental Zoology. 317A: 467-480.

Rivera, A. R. V., J. Wyneken, R. W. Blob. 2011. Forelimb kinematics and motor patterns of swimming loggerhead sea turtles (Caretta caretta): are motor patterns conserved in the evolution of new locomotor strategies? Journal of Experimental Biology, 214: 3314-3323.

Rivera, G., A. R. V. Rivera, R. W. Blob. 2011. Hydrodynamic stability of the painted turtle Chrysemys picta: effects of four-limbed rowing versus forelimb flapping in rigid-bodied tetrapods. Journal of Experimental Biology, 214: 1153-1162.

Rivera, A. R. V. and R. W. Blob. 2010. Forelimb kinematics and motor patterns of the slider turtle (Trachemys scripta) during swimming and walking: shared and novel strategies for meeting locomotor demands of water and land. Journal of Experimental Biology, 213: 3515-3526.

Schoenfuss, H. L., J. D. Roos, A. R. V. Rivera, R. W. Blob. 2010. Motor patterns of distal hind limb muscles in walking turtles: implications for models of limb bone loading. Journal of Morphology, 271: 1527-1536.

Blob, R. W., A. R. V. Rivera, M. W. Westneat. 2008. Hindlimb Function in Turtle Locomotion: Limb Movements and Muscular Activation Across Taxa, Environment, and Ontogeny. In: Biology of Turtles (J. Wyneken, V. Bels, and M. H. Godfrey, eds.). CRC Press, Boca Raton, 139-162.

Rivera, G., A. R. V. Rivera, E. E. Dougherty, R. W. Blob. 2006. Aquatic turning performance of painted turtles (Chrysemys picta) and functional consequences of a rigid body design. Journal of Experimental Biology, 209: 4203-4213.