Seahorses as a bio-inspired design … a two-way tool for studying biological innovations

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Tuesday November 5, 2019 - 7pm-8pm: lecture, followed by reception
Faculty of Sciences - Campus Sterre - Krijgslaan 281 - Ghent - buildin S9 - 2nd floor - Auditorium A2 - A lift is present in the building.
The campus is accesible easily by bike, bus and train. (The campus lies on walking distance from railway station Gent-Sint-Pieters.)
Should you prefer to come by car you can park on campus on the evening of the lecture until 10pm. The barriers will be open or will open automatically when you approach them.


Prof. dr. Dominique Adriaens - Dept. Biology - RG Evolutionary Morphology of Vertebrates

Biology has not only inspired biologists, when trying to identify existing patterns and evolutionary processes, but is increasingly also inspiring all kinds of other fields of research and development. Biological evolution is considered to reflect an iterative process of creating variation, testing their performance, selecting the best ones, improving it, and testing again.

An evolutionary biologist will understand this as variation, adaptation and natural selection. An engineer or designer, however, will see in this a process of designing, prototyping, testing and improving. The analogy between this biological process and design thinking is better known as bio-inspired design, biomimetics, biomimicry or some other analogous terms.

By understanding how things work in nature, one can derive basic designs of which its proof of concept related to its functionality has already been provided by nature: if it works and survives in nature, it must be good. By studying the evolutionary adaptations in organisms, a whole world is being opened of biological solutions to biological problems that would be useful to solve technical, medical, societal, … problems. Biomimetic research is currently booming, going from biological materials to social interactions between organisms, or resource cycling and sustainability in whole ecosystems.

In this talk, I will focus on how studying the evolution of the prehensile tail* in seahorses can open up a plethora of applications that are relevant for society, as well as how biomimetic designs can help to answer evolutionary questions in biology. As a critical note, I will also tackle the assumption as if nature is optimised through the process of evolution.

*A prehensile tail is the tail of an animal that has adapted to be able to grasp or hold objects.


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This lecture is part of a series organised in the framework of Public Outreach. We aim to bring current research to a broad public. Consult the full program for 2019-2020.

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