Functional Morphology

At FunMorph, we investigate how complex organismal systems function and evolve. Our focus is on systems that are integrated (-require the integrated functioning of many bodily parts) and ecologically relevant (-affect the individual’s chances for survival and reproduction). Examples of functions under study include: locomotion, feeding, fighting, communication, and thermoregulation.

Some of our projects take a mechanistic approach. We try to understand how organismal systems work: precisely how body parts (primarily of the movement apparatus) and processes interact to allow the individual animal to move, eat, fight, communicate etcetera. Most of these studies are lab-based and employ techniques such as RX-imaging, micro-CT-scanning, EMG, 3D-reconstruction, high speed filming, biomechanical modelling, kinematics, computational fluid dynamics and finite element modelling.

Other projects take an evolutionary approach: here we try to examine if and how natural and sexual selection have shaped organismal functions. This approach requires analyses in the lab and in the field, including the measurement of whole-animal performance, of selection gradients, parentage assessment, behavioural observations, comparative analyses, etcetera.

But our most exciting projects have integrated both approaches.

Vertebrates (fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals) have traditionally been the main stars of our research, but occasionally other groups have crept into sight.