David King in natural habitat, standing with walking stick beside a tall rock.
Some Southern Illinois nature trails.
Southern Illinois University

David G. King, associate professor emeritus
Department of Zoology, College of Agricultural, Life, and Physical Sciences;
Department of Anatomy, School of Medicine
B.S.Biological Sciences, Purdue University, 1970.
Ph.D.Neuroscience, University of California San Diego, 1975.
RetiredSouthern Illinois University, 2014.  


Research history:  My doctoral dissertation and postdoctoral research on the morphology of individually-identifiable nerve cells led me to wonder how the exquisite details of neural circuitry had evolved.

Adaptive "tuning" of neural circuits would surely be expedited if functional parameters of individual nerve cells could be separately adjusted by mutation.  Once I understood that abundant genetic variation at sites of tandem-repetitive DNA could quantitatively influence the action of associated genes, while incurring relatively low risk of harm, I realized that such sites -- which vastly outnumber protein-coding genes -- might function as "evolutionary tuning knobs" for practically any trait.

For the past three decades, my publications have reviewed growing evidence for this "tuning knob" hypothesis.  I have proposed that the "tuning knob" properties of tandem-repetitive DNA constitute one among several "mutation protocols" that have been indirectly shaped by natural selection, thereby (perhaps) facilitating the widely recognized evolutionary plasticity of complex animal behavior.

Annotated publication list

micrograph of longitudinal 
            section of Drosophila Selected links representing
areas of special interest:
praying mantis among blackberries
head of a violin, with fingers on one of the tuning knobs EVOLUTIONARY BIOLOGY 
micrograph of nerve in fly neck NEUROBIOLOGY 
micrograph of epithelium and connective tissue HISTOLOGY 

close-up view of an Asilid (robber fly), with bulging eyes, long facial 
bristles, and yellow tarsal pads 

                                          (more nature photographs)

"Ad astra per alia muscae."
(with apologies to John Steinbeck) 

The Lord in his wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.

                                   Ogden Nash

Flies were made so fools like me
Might wonder how such things could be --
With tiny wings and eyes
and brains
Evolved in such diversity.

close-up view of Tachinid (bristle fly), with russet eyes and iridescent abdomen
                                         (more nature photographs)

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Comments and questions: dgking@siu.edu

SIUC / Zoology / David King
Last updated:  8 December 2022