Robert Dudley

Chair and Professor

Phone: (510) 642-1555
Lab Webpage:

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Research Description

Our group works on the biomechanics, energetics, and evolution of animal flight.  Flight performance is investigated in the laboratory using high-speed three-dimensional videography, metabolic measurements, particle-image velocimetry, and physically-variable gas mixtures.  Two current goals are to describe hummingbird kinematic and metabolic responses to variable levels of air turbulence within a wind tunnel, and to evaluate the functional correlates of wing reduction among a diversity of stick insect species.  Laboratory studies of flight biomechanics are complemented by fieldwork around the planet, including the ecophysiology of butterfly migrations in Panama, gliding in Southeast Asian flying lizards, hummingbird flight metabolism across elevational gradients in Peru, high-altitude adaptations in Sichuan bumblebees, and controlled aerial behavior in wingless hexapods of the Neotropical forest canopy.  Research students are encouraged to ask idiosyncratic biomechanical and ecophysiological questions to which a diversity of technological and phylogenetic approaches available in the lab may be applied.

Selected Publications

Badger, M., Ortega-Jimenez, V.M., von Rabenau, L., Smiley, A. and R. Dudley. (2015). Electrostatic charge on flying hummingbirds and its potential role in pollination. PLOS ONE 10(9):e0138003 (11 pp.)

Munk, Y., Yanoviak, S.P., Koehl, M.A.R. and R. Dudley. (2015). The descent of ant: field-measured three-dimensional trajectories of gliding ants. Journal of Experimental Biology 218:1393-1401. doi:10.1242/​jeb.106914

Yanoviak, S.P., Munk, Y. and R. Dudley. (2015). Arachnid aloft: directed aerial descent in a Neotropical canopy spider. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 12:20150534 (5 pp.)

Evangelista, D., Cam, S., Huynh, T., Krivitskiy, I. and R. Dudley. (2014). Ontogeny of aerial righting and wing flapping in juvenile birds. Biology Letters doi:10.1098/rsbl.2014.0497 (4 pp.) 

Kim, E.J., Wolf, M., Ortega-Jimenez, V.M. and R. Dudley. (2014). Hovering performance of Anna's Hummingbirds (Calypte anna) in ground effect. Journal of the Royal Society Interface  11:20140505 (8 pp.) 

Dudley, R. (2014). The Drunken Monkey: Why We Drink and Abuse Alcohol. Berkeley: University of California Press. 154 pp.

Dillon, M.E. and R. Dudley. (2014). Surpassing Mt. Everest: extreme flight performance of alpine bumble-bees. Biology Letters doi:10.1098/rsbl.2013.0922 (4 pp.)

McGuire, J.A., Witt, C.C., Van Remsen, J., Corl, A., Rabosky, D.L., Altshuler, D.L. and R. Dudley. (2014). Molecular phylogenetics and the diversification of hummingbirds (Apodiformes: Trochilidae). Current Biology doi:10.1016/j.cub.2014.03.016 (7 pp.)

Ortega-Jimenez, V.M., Wolf, M., Variano, E.A. and R. Dudley. (2014). Into turbulent air: size-dependent effects of von Kármán vortex streets on hummingbird flight kinematics and energetics. Proceedings of the Royal Society B doi:10.1098/rspb.2014.0180 (10 pp.)

Sapir, N. and R. Dudley. (2013). Implications of floral orientation for flight kinematics and metabolic expenditure of hover-feeding hummingbirds. Functional Ecology 27:227-235.

Wolf, M., Ortega-Jimenez, V.M. and R. Dudley. (2013). Structure of the vortex wake in hovering Anna's Hummingbirds (Calypte anna). Proceedings of the Royal Society B doi:10.1098/rspb.2013.2391 (7 pp.)

Dudley, R. and S.P. Yanoviak. (2011). Animal aloft: the origins of aerial behavior and flight. Integrative and Comparative Biology 51:926-936.

Yanoviak, S.P., Munk, Y., Kaspari, M.A. and Dudley, R. (2010). Aerial manoeuvrability in wingless gliding ants (Cephalotes atratus). Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277:2199-2204.

Clark, C.J. and R. Dudley. (2009). Flight costs of long, sexually selected tails in hummingbirds. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276:2109-2115.

Combes, S.A. and R. Dudley. (2009). Turbulence-driven instabilities limit insect flight performance. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 106:9105-9108.

Kaspari, M., Yanoviak, S.P. and R. Dudley. (2008). On the biogeography of salt limitation: a study of ant communities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 105:17848-17851.

Dudley, R. (2000). The Biomechanics of Insect Flight: Form, Function, Evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 476 pp.