Research of the Experimental Zoology Group

Mission: To unravel the relationships between form and function in zoological systems in a developmental and evolutionary context and to provide bioinspired solutions for technological and medical problems.

Animals are complex mechanical systems that behave, develop, and evolve on multiple timescales. Understanding their structure and function requires interdisciplinary quantitative analyses that span a range of temporal and architectural scales. In return, such analyses reveal unexpected design strategies and solutions as developed by natural selection. Reverse engineering of these solutions can help to solve similar problems of societal relevance.

Zebrafish (wt) - 48 hours post fertilisation
Zebrafish (wt) - 48 hours post fertilisation

Our current main research area is the biomechanics of motion systems in vertebrates and insects, with three complementary research lines (figure 1): (1) Biomechanics of animal flight (PI: Florian Muijres), including the biofluid dynamics of avian and insect flight and in-flight host detection of malaria mosquitoes. (2) Biomechanics of fish swimming (PIs: Johan van Leeuwen, Martin Lankheet, Bart Pollux, Sander Gussekloo), including swimming and developmental mechanics in larval fish, fin propulsion, visuo-motor-system development and effects of a livebearing reproductive strategy on swimming performance. This research line also includes developmental mechanics of bones and muscles, linking bone remodelling to molecular regulation. (3) Bioinspired design solutions for human health (PIs: Johan van Leeuwen, Sander Gussekloo), including development of steerable needles (inspired by the ovipositor biomechanics in parasitic wasps), and gentle grippers for delicate human tissues (inspired by wet adhesion of toe-pads in tree frogs).


The primary research field of EZO is biomechanics in a zoological context. We develop fundamental knowledge on animal flight, fish swimming and for biomimetic solutions  to animal and human health problems (the main research lines).
The primary research field of EZO is biomechanics in a zoological context. We develop fundamental knowledge on animal flight, fish swimming and for biomimetic solutions to animal and human health problems (the main research lines).

Our research is not exclusively restricted to these lines because our quantitative and deductive approach provides unique opportunities to tackle a range of important problems, such as biomechanics of tongues and sensors.

Current Research Lines
Lines Projects BSc / MSc topics
Biomechanics of animal flight Biomechanics of mosquito flight (Veni project F.T. Muijres) Studying the effect of moult on flight performance in Pied Flycatchers (BSc Thesis of J. Koelman)
Giant fiber system in mosquitoes (Diptera) (MSc Thesis of B.T. Biemans)
In-flight host detection of malaria mosquitoes (M. Lankheet and J.L. van Leeuwen) Evaluating in vivo contractile function of the guinea fowl lateral gastocnemius across locomotor tasks (MSc Internship of J.A. van Erp at the Harvard University (Prof. Biewnere))
Aerodynamics of mosquito flight (PhD project W.G. van Veen) Mosquito wing morphology and kinematics in tethererd flight (MSc Thesis)
How to catch a mosquito? The flight response of mosquitoes to odors and air gusts produced by odor-baited traps (PhD project A. Cribellier) Development of insect flight tracker (BSc Thesis of A.T.M. kaarsgaren)
Ecomorphology of avian wings (BSc Thesis of V.M.M. Cate)
Biomechanics of fish swimming Evolutionary ecology of placentation and superfetation in livebearing fish (Vidi project B.J.A. Pollux) Microhabitat selection by native and invasive fishes in the River Meuse (MSc Thesis of E.C. Schuijtvlot)
Microhabitat selection by native and invasive fishes in the River Meuse (MSc Thesis of B. Wijnoltz)
Fluid-muscle interaction of free-swimming of zebrafish larvae (PhD project C.J. Voesenek)
Molecular Ecology/Sexual Selection (PhD project M.L. Dekker)
Functional advantage of the Placenta and Superfetation in Live-bearing Fish (PhD project A. Hagmayer)
Consequences of placentation for swimming performance in livebearing fish (PhD projects M. Fleuren and E.M. Quicazan) The effect of pregnancy on the muscle distribution, composition and physiology in livebearing fish (MSc thesis J. Verhoeff)
Visuo-motor-control in juvenile fish (M.J.M. Lankheet)
Bioinspired design solutions for human health Secure and gentle grip of delicate biological tissues (PhD project J.K.A. Langowski) Functional morfology of ovipositors (MSc Thesis of N.M.M.E. van Meer)
3-axial time resolved force measurements and high-speed kinematics of single frog toe pads (MSc Thesis of J.J. Jager)
Ultra-thin steerable needle for solid-organ interventions (PhD project U. Cerkvenik)
Undulatory fish swimming of seahorses as an inspiration of under-water vehicles (PhD project S. Henrion)
Miscellaneous Biomechanics and health of bovine claws (PhD project W. Ouweltjes)
Modelling the effects of electrical pulse stimulation on marine fishes and invertebrates (PhD project P.G. Boute) Effects of electrical stimulation on muscle activity in fish (MSc Thesis of R. Kleppe)
X-ray database of fish caught in puls trawl fishery (MSc Thesis of W.S.M. Versteeg)
Threshold muscle activity in Atlantic salmon and European seabass (BSc Thesis of J. Bleijenberg)
Flatfishes caught by pulse trawlers: x-ray and fillet dissection analysis (BSc Thesis of L.K. van Harten)
Muscle mechanics (J.L. van Leeuwen) Screening compounds using the zebrafish/larva assay (MSc Internship of N.C. van Duijvenvoorde at the Universiteit Leiden (Prof. M.K. Richardson))