About Functional Morphology
Master projects 2015-2016
- Influences of the beak position on hearing in birds
- Comparative study of stress in the metacarpal bone of extinct and modern horses (Perissodactyla: Equidae)
- Functional morphological development of the musculo-skeletal locomotor system in piglets
- Adaptive advantages of asymmetry in the weaponry of stag beetles
- Trade-offs between large weaponry and flight performance in stag beetles
- Osteoderm function in the Karoo girdled lizard (Karusasaurus polyzonus)
- Spatial ecology of smooth snakes (Coronella austriaca) in Grenspark De Zoom - Kalmthoutse Heide
- Genetic diversity and differentiation of smooth snake populations in Flanders
- Seasonality of chemodetection in lacertid lizards
- Evolution of chemoreceptive predator recognition in lacertid lizards
- Developmental stability in egg-laying and live-bearing populations of the common lizard, Zootoca vivipara
- Genetic divergence and diversity of Alpine salamander populations
- Venom variation in Alpine salamander populations
- Aesthetics of human bodily movements
Aesthetics of human bodily movements
Co-promoters: Ann Hallemans, Peter Aerts
Is there a biological basis to aesthetic experience? Is beauty always 'in the eye of the beholder', or do universally valid judgments of prettiness exist? Several studies (on human faces, on landscapes) have suggested that our appraisal of beauty may be more universal than previously thought, and several authors have offered adaptive (evolutionary) explanations for this bias. In this study, we will examine what human subjects (a sample as diverse as possible) consider 'attractive' in bodily movements, and how this appraisal differs with factors such as sex, age, origin etcetera. We will explore whether 'beautiful' movements have characteristics that make sense from an evolutionary point of view (natural or sexual selection theory).
3D movement capturing and analyses
Contact: Raoul Van Damme, CDE C1.31
Influences of the beak position on hearing in birds
Daily supervision: Raf Claes
The avian middle ear is relatively simple and consists out of one ossicle (the columella), an eardrum, one ligament and one muscle. The eardrum is partially connected to the quadrate bone which is a part of the beak suspension. This connection causes an alternation in the shape and tension of the eardrum at different beak openings, which possibly causes a change in hearing of the bird.
In this MP, µCT-data will be modelled to quantify the rotation of the quadrate and compare the middle ear structures at different beak positions of different species.
Contact: Raf Claes, CDE C1.30
Comparative study of stress in the metacarpal bone of extinct and modern horses (Perissodactyla: Equidae)
The evolutionary series of the horse has been widely accepted as a perfect example of macroevolution in response to ecological pressures. The current hypothesis is that the reduction from three toes to one on each limb was a necessary adaptation to a cursorial lifestyle in open grassland. A key element of this evolution to monodactyly is the reinforcement of the middle finger/toe.
By comparing the calculated stress in bones of extinct equids with examples of modern horses, asses and zebras, we aim at finding evolutionary patterns relating to ecology. In the extant species, we would like to test whether there is a link between the strength of the bone and the compliance of the surface in which the animals live.
Increase the current database of equid bones by 3D scanning museum specimens; Use the existent and new scans to perform finite element analysis to reveal patterns of stress; correlate shape to stress and stress to habitat.
Contact: Sandra Nauwelaerts, CDE C1.29
Functional morphological development of the musculo-skeletal locomotor system in piglets
Co-promoter: Chris Van Ginneken
Daily supervision: Charlotte Vanden Hole
More and more, piglets are used as model for (fundamental) medical studies in humans. The topic of this MP forms part of a research project that focuses on functional morphological and motor development in normal and low birth weight piglets. For this purpose, the functional morphology of the musculo-skeletal appendicular system (skeletal and muscular anatomy, muscle masses and volumes, fibre lengths, physiological cross sections…) will be studied during early post natal ontogeny (first 4 days) in both groups.
Dissections, morphometrics, CT-scanning….
Contact: Peter Aerts, CDE C1.09
Adaptive advantages of asymmetry in the weaponry of stag beetles
Co-promoter: Jana Goyens
Male stag beetles fight each other aggressively with their extremely large jaws. The shape of the jaws is adapted to be able to withstand high bite forces in battles. This does, however, not explain the function of the asymmetry that is often found in the jaws (e.g. jaw length, curvature, number and size of protrusions). In this thesis, these asymmetries will be measured on the European Stag Beetle (Lucanus cervus). Subsequently, it will be investigated whether they are caused by developmental instability or, on the contrary, have a functional advantage for the beetles (e.g. enhanced grip on rivals, preventing the jaws from scuffing against each other,…).
Measuring asymmetry of stag beetle jaws on pictures or computer models.
Contact: Stefan Van Dongen, CGB V3.24b or Jana Goyens, CDE C1.06
Osteoderm function in the Karoo girdled lizard (Karusasaurus polyzonus)
Co-promoter: Raoul Van Damme
It is widely assumed that osteoderms, bony elements embedded in the dermis, are part of protective armour to defend prey against attacks from predators. Recently, alternative hypotheses explaining the presence of osteoderms, such as aid in thermoregulation, have been put forward. In this MP, the student will test both hypotheses using the Karoo girdled lizard (Karusasaurus polyzonus) as study organism. µCT-scanning will be used to compare osteoderm characteristics among populations along a climatic and predation gradient. In addition, laboratory and field experiments will be conducted to test the functional significance of interpopulation variation.
Field/lab work for approximately 4-6 weeks during South African spring/summer (September – April). International drivers licence is recommended, but not essential
Contact: Chris Broeckhoven, Stellenbosch University, SA