COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH: AN INTEGRATIVE APPROACH TO THE PERFORMANCE AND EVOLUTION OF HIGH PERFORMANCE SUCTORIAL DISKS IN FISHES
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This research will combine the skills of a comparative physiologist, an engineer, and a systematist to unravel the performance, design principals, and evolution of the sucker disk that allows some fishes to cling to rocks. These fishes, called clingfish, adhere to fouled, irregular substrates in pounding surf and while launching feeding attacks to pry limpets from the rocks. The work will involve a field component to measure the irregularity of substrates in the field, a pure modeling component that seeks to understand the effects of disk shape and material properties on suction, and a phylogenetic survey component. In the survey the suction abilities of clingfishes from all over the world will be quantified and the relationships among clingfish species will be determined using phylogenetic methods. The shape and underlying structure of the disk will also be investigated. The results of these studies will be deposited in several public databases, including Genbank, Tree of Life, and a custom database for morphological data such as CT scans. Other broader impacts of the grant include the development of biomimetic suction systems that could be used in surgical or robotic settings, development of tools for modeling soft matter interactions, education and outreach at the K12 and undergraduate level, and support of graduate education.