Current Research Projects

Principal aim: finding statistically supported histological correlates of powered flight, secondary flightlessness, and superprecociality in birds, and applying results to dinobirds by searching for similar patterns in their bone histology
Study object: birds and dinosaur-bird transitional forms
Methodology: after initial qualitative assessment under polarized light microscope, histomorphometric measurements of bone tissue characteristics based on thin sections and possibly microCT data; numerical analysis of measurements
Principal aim: Understand evolutionary adaptations and mechanical requirements of animal prehensile tail systems
Study object: Brittlestars, syngnathid fishes, chamaeleons, lizards, New World monkeys
Methodology: µCT scanning, 3D reconstructions, dissections, 3D shape analysis, finite element modelling, multibody dynamics modelling, biomimetics
Principal aim: 1. Unveiling the genetic basis of head dimorphism and the effects of this dimorphism on fat and pollutant deposition. 2. Studying musculoskeletal adaptations in relation to feeding divergence in glass and yellow eels
Study object: The European eel (Anguilla anguilla, Linnaeus 1758), a catadromous fish found in rivers throughout West and North Europe, which has been listed as 'critically endangered' on the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
Methodology: RNA-seq, 3D shape analysis, CT-scanning, Finite element modeling
Principal aim: Investigating brooding-related trade-offs, with a focus on mouthbrooding
Study object: Betta splendens, Betta picta, Sphaerichtys osphromenoides, Pterapogon kauderni and Eretmodus cyanostictus
Principal aim: Investigating the changing functional morphology of the feeding apparatus of (pre)leptocephalus larvae during ontogeny and the associated implications on the feeding strategy/behavior.
Study object: The European eel (Anguilla anguilla, Linnaeus 1758), a catadromous fish found in rivers throughout West and North Europe, with spawning grounds located in the Sargasso Sea (North Atlantic Ocean).
Methodology: high speed recordings, clearing/staining, serial histological sectioning, 3-dimensional reconstructions, modeling of kinematics, finite element modeling, multi-body dynamics
Principal aim: investigate the potential role of new morphotypes, produced by hybridization and phenotypic plasticity, in the process of speciation.
Study object: Haplochromis piceatus Greenwood & Gee 1969 and Haplochromis fischeri Seegers 2008 (= H. sauvagei non Pfeffer, 1896: Greenwood, 1957), two cichlid species with a different trophic morphology, both endemic to Lake Victoria.
Methodology: dissections, clearing/staining, geometric morphometrics, modeling of functionality, serial sectioning and 3D-reconstruction, CT scanning, high-speed recordings (feeding kinematics)
Principal aim: contribute to resolving the taxonomic impediments using ecomorphological and histological studies.
Study object: Haplochromis insidae (Snoeks, 1994) and H. kamiranzovu (Snoeks, 1987), two cichlid species endemic to Lake Kivu.
Methodology: characterization of fish sampling sites, identification of the both species by observation of tooth shape, geometric morphometrics, clearing and staining, dissections and CT scanning, diet analyses.
Principal aim: detect the nature of opercular deformations and their possible causes, and to establish a detection protocol for use in aquaculture.
Study object: gilthead sea bream, a salt water species from the Mediterranean Sea and the western European and African coasts, with a reputation as a highly valued food fish, both in aquaculture and fisheries.
Methodology: geometric morphometrics, claering and staining, histology, ct-scanning, experimental set-ups.
Principal aim: The aim is to use design from nature with a potential for applications in the commercial world. By studying the evolutionary morphological changes that have occurred in the tail of syngnathid fishes (i.e. pipefishes, pipehorses and seahorses), we want to understand to what degree structural changes have occurred in relation to flexibility and rigidity of the articulated musculoskeletal system that comprises the tail in these fishes. Based on this information, we want to explore the potential of this design within an industrial context. This study is part of a Flemish Science Foundation (FWO) funded interdisciplinary project, a collaboration between civil engineers, physicist, and our research group. For the modelling, we are collaborating with Simulia (producers of Abaqus).
Study object: This multidisciplinary project focuses on the caudal system (tail) of syngnathid fishes, with special attention to the prehensile tail in seahorses.
Methodology: Morphological analyses are based on dissections, in toto clearing and staining, micro-CT-scanning (including phase-contrast X-ray scanning at European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble), serial histological sectioning and graphical 3D-visualisations. Functional analyses are based on kinematic analysis in live animals, testing kinematic flexibility by manipulating preserved animals, and virtual modelling. The latter modelling comprises finite element modelling and multi-body modelling using Abaqus.
Principal aim: The aim is to develop tools and protocols for sustainable artifical reproduction. The aim of our research is to analyse the ontogeny of the feeding apparatus of pre-feeding and feeding larval stages, and to model feeding performance. The analysis will map in 3D all the components of the musculoskeletal system comprising the feeding apparatus from pre-feeding to feeding preleptocephaly stages. By using this 3D information on the skeletal architecture of lever systems and articulations, as well as muscle information, the performance of the feeding apparatus in the different ontogenetic stages will be modeled. Videorecordings will be done to analyse feeding kinematics. This should allow us to predict the capacities of larvae of how to deal with inert food administred in artificial rearing conditions. This study will also encompass a comparative study on the ontogeny of the feeding apparatus in the Japanese eel (Anguilla japonica).
Study object: This multidisciplinary project focuses the scientific background associated with the complete process of articial reproduction of European eel.
Methodology: Morphological analyses are based on dissections, in toto clearing and staining, micro-CT-scanning (including phase-contrast X-ray scanning at European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble), serial histological sectioning and graphical 3D-visualisations. Functional analyses are based on kinematic analysis on live animals, testing kinematic flexibility by manipulating preserved animals, and virtual modelling.
Principal aim: understand the level of adaptive evolution in the cranial musculoskeletal system during evolution in relation to haematophagy.
Study object: Neotropical catfishes (Trichomycteridae), especially representatives of the clade showing an evolutionary trend towards haematophagy (including the legendary candirù catfish).
Methodology: clearing and staining, dissections, histology, micro-CT-scanning, graphical 3D-reconstructing, 3D-modelling of functionality, molecular phylogeny.
Principal aim: investigate the effects that physical and nutritional parameters have on the growth of cultured sea bass.
Study object: European sea bass, a commercially important species in fisheries and aquaculture, with a natural range from Scandinavia to West Africa.
Methodology: experimental set-ups, morphological study, biometrics, geometric morphometrics.
Principal aim: characterize dimorphism in different aspects of cranial morphology and feeding performance in European eel (anatomy, shape, muscle physiology, biting performance) in relation to its trophic ecology (more specifically feeding) and its impact on intake of pollutants.
Study object: European eel, a species found in rivers throughout West and North Europe, as well as in the North Atlantic Ocean, where they spawn in the Sargasso Sea.
Methodology: dissections, histological serial sections, CT-scanning, field observations, geometric morphometrics, 3D-reconstructing, Finite Element Modelling.