I study the aerodynamics of directed aerial descent in the arboreal gliding ant genus Cephalotes. When dislodged from a tree, these ants are capable of stabilizing themselves in mid-air while falling and adopting a stable aerodynamic posture that allows them to glide towards and land upon the tree from which they fell. For more on the discovery of these ants and some videos of what this behavior looks like, check out my collaborator Steve Yanoviak's website.
In studying this system, I employ a combination of field experiments, laboratory experiments using live ants, and physical modeling experiments using dynamically scaled models of ants. My goal in this research is to understand the dynamics of stability and control on the scale of a gliding ant, and discover how these small organisms are able to glide in a directed fashion in the absence of any obvious morphological adaptations for aerodynamic performance.
- Munk, Y. Kinematics of Swimming Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis). Comp Biochem Physiol A Mol Integr Physiol, 2008. 150(2):131-5. Epub 2007 Sep 14