Post-doc: Functional and ecological morphology of balance in lizard locomotion
Balance control is essential for animals that walk or run. Sensing the position and movement of the own body is crucial in this regard. The inner ear houses a small organ, the vestibular system, that senses rotational and linear accelerations of the head. In my post-doc, I investigate the functioning of this organ and how it’s anatomy is adapted to the species specific needs. For example, very agile, fast moving and maneuverable species may need a much more sensitive vestibular organ than slow moving animals. We use lacertid lizards in our comparative analyses, because there exists a large variation of both body sizes and types of habitat use in this closely related family. In our analyses, we use both experimental and computational approaches. For example, we analyse body kinematics based on high speed video recordings of running lizards, we compare the morphology of the vestibular system of lizards species based on micro CT scans and we construct computation fluid dynamics models to understand the fluid mechanics in the vestibular system.
PhD: Functional morphology and biomechanics of the armature of stag beetles
As a Phd student, my research focused on the biomechanics of the armature of stag beetles. Stag beetles are known for their enormous jaws, which function as ‘antlers’ in the battle for female attention. There is a very wide variety in shape and size of the armature of stag beetles, between species as well as between males of the same species. Although their importance in (sexual) selection is clear, and there is an obvious cost of making and carrying the armature, the evolutionary basis is still unclear.
In my phd project, I measured the influence of the armature of the stag beetles on walking and flying. The morphology and musculature of the jaws are adapted for walking, flying and fighting with the giant jaws. Based on knowledge of the material and structural properties of the armature, I constructed mathematical models to investigate how the material, musculature and shape of the jaws are adapted to fight (by determining the stress and strain with a finite element model) and flight (by predicting aerodynamics with computational fluid dynamics).
You can find more information about my phd-project here.
My paper on the bite force of stag beetles was featured on BBC Word News TV and BBC News Website. You can watch our video abstract on youtube.
In another youtube video, I show how the heavy armature of male stag beetles detoriates their running capacity.
My paper about flying stag beetles was featured on Discovery Channel Canada and by New Scientist.