Animal locomotion requires modulation of force and power output in response to variable environmental demand. Through the use of experimental gas mixtures, I show how physiological and biomechanical limits to hovering performance in birds and insects can be decoupled to elucidate general physical constraints on flight. Such constraints are also revealed on an evolutionary timescale through the combined application of phylogenetic and biomechanical analyses to hummingbird and bumblebee flight capacity across steep altitudinal transects. Sea butterflies, also known as pteropods, represent a fascinating evolutionary experiment in underwater flapping mechanics. Through the combined use of temperature and viscosity manipulations, we can elicit changes from cilia-mediated to flapping locomotion in individual larval pteropods, illustrating fundamental Reynolds number shifts in the efficacy of locomotion. Broader features of wing kinematics and propulsive mechanisms will also be presented for this amazing yet remarkably understudied group of molluscs.
Speaker: Robert Dudley, UC Berkeley
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