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Mathematical Biomechanics and the "What!", "How?" and "Why?" in Functional Morphology

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image of Netherlands Journal of Zoology
For more content, see Archives Néerlandaises de Zoologie (Vol 1-17) and Animal Biology (Vol 53 and onwards).

In functional morphology, the "what", "how" and "why" about form and function of specific structures is one type of question (case-studies). When the hypothesis erected to answer these questions cannot be tested experimentally, an alternative approach can be the application of mathematical models. In order to reduce the speculative nature of this approach, the following points must be considered: (1) a detailed morphological study is required to obtain accurate structural and geometrical data; (2) framing the hypothesis should be based on the critical interpretation of the morphological data within the framework of known physical and physiological information ; (3) the mathematical reduction must rather tend to express the plausibility of the hypothesis instead of to quantify the physical phenomenon in question (i.e. model construction is determined by the selection of the right output parameters); (4) the applied physics must be relevant to the phenomenon being investigated; (5) the "theoretical environment of the model" and the input values for the environmental variables must fit reality. Two case-studies on aspects of the form and function of the head of fishes will illustrate the application of these principles.

Affiliations: 1: Zoological Institue, University Ghent, Ledeganckstraat 35, B-9000 Gent, Belgium


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