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Prof. Dr. Alexander Blanke

Evolutionary morphology

Research focus

The Blanke Lab focuses on the morphological research of the evolution and diversification of insects using, and partly also developing, modern analysis procedures from the fields of 3D modeling and reconstruction, mechanics, and morphometry.

At present, a special research focus lies on the study of the evolution of the insect head: insects show an immense wealth of head and mouthpart forms. The study of this richness of shapes, its importance for the mechanical variation of food intake, and which environmental factors play a decisive role, will clarify and at the same time fundamentally change our understanding of the adaptability of insects.

The research group focuses on what is believed to be the first major transition from chewing-biting to stinging-sucking head and mouthpart forms that occurred about 350 million years ago. Within a comparatively "short" period of time after that, most of the "orders" of insects we know today were formed. We would like to understand which functional morphological processes made this true explosion of shape variation possible.

To address this topic we use micro-computed tomography (µCT) data, which we obtain mainly at large scale synchrotron particle accelerators (SRµCT). These data are then used to create 3D models of the external and especially internal anatomy (muscles, brain, hard tissue). These 3D models then serve as a basis for many further analyses: quantification of the shape, mechanical simulation of food intake based on further experimental data, simulation of shape changes and evolutionary trajectories, correlation of shape and function with ecological, developmental and phylogenetic factors.



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