The mission of the experimental zoology group is 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.
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).
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.
More information about our chair group can also be found on this Research page of the Wageningen University & Research.