As a PhD student at the Laboratory for Functional Morphology
at the University of Antwerp, I study how form and function has evolved in the
vertebrate musculo-skeletal system. My research focuses on the terrestrial
feeding of amphibious fish.
In recent popular science there has been a fair amount of
attention for the “fin to foot” transition in Sarcopterygii, from which the
first terrestrial vertebrates evolved. But, surprisingly, very little is known
about the “water to land” transition beyond locomotion, such as the adaptation
of the feeding apparatus to the terrestrial environment.
A reason for a lack of knowledge in this area may be because
the functional morphological knowledge on prey capture and transport systems on
the transition between “water-land” is very limited.
The difference between the two media present genuine evolutionary
challenge, as it is physically impossible to generate a suction force (the most
popular mode of aquatic food uptake in primitive fish) in air capable of capturing
prey of any significant mass. Thus, using a feeding apparatus built for aquatic
feeding on land, would lead to alternative behavioral and morphological adaptations.
In order to identify any pre-adaptations to terrestrial
feeding in Sacopterygii, we must first gain a proper fundamental understanding
of the functional morphology of terrestrial food uptake in animals with a piscine
The main goal of my research is to discover the
biomechanical possibilities and limitation of an efficient terrestrial feeding
apparatus in modern amphibious fish and the anatomical requirements and demands
on the cranial and post-cranial musclo-skeletal system.
To this end we will study a variety of amphibious fish
species, each capable of feeding both on land and in water, each with a
different morphology, influencing their mobility and feeding strategy.
Perhaps the most well known amphibious fish, the mudskipper
(Periophthalmus), is a perfect example of an animal specialized in life in the
transition between water and land. Despite needing water to breath with its
gills, it is adapted to extended stays on land, where it forages for food.
A detailed kinematic study based on high speed recording of
terrestrial and aquatic prey capture in conjunction with a thorough
morphological study of the feeding apparatus will help us relate the
biomechanics modern amphibious species to morphological data on Sarcopterygii.
contact info: Krijn
Michel, Universiteit Antwerpen (Dept. Biology), Universiteitsplein 1, B-2610
Antwerpen, Belgium. Tel: +32 3 265 22 60
Fax: +32 3 265 22 71 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org