The unit's main research interest is the study of the evolution of form and function in vertebrate musculo-skeletal systems by combining comparative and experimental methods of analysis, often together with ecological and behavioural aspects. The aims of current research projects are:
- to describe the form of structural elements and their relationship to one another and to the environment
- to determine the functional and mechanical relationships among structures
- to investigate the link between morphology - performance - fitness (Arnold, 1983)
Morphology is studied by means of dissection, X-rays and serially sectioned material (microscopy). Functional analysis is carried out by monitoring the motor behaviour. Therefore, multichannel electromyography (i.e. muscle activity) is synchronized with high-speed video or cineradiographical recordings of the movements of interest and/or with the output of transducers registering mechanical variables (e.g. forces, velocity, acceleration, pressure...). Often, these data are used as input for models that allow us to examine specific questions about the evolution, development, and behaviour of form and function (Aerts et al., 2000). This approach depends on the reduction of the complex morphological reality into simple, reliable and physiologically representative models, relevant to the questions asked (e.g Aerts, 1992).