Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The Biomechanics of Information

04.06.2010
Going more miles per gallon with your brain

The hunting strategy of a slender fish from the Amazon is giving researchers more insight into how to balance the metabolic cost of information with the metabolic cost of moving around to get that information.

A new study from Northwestern University's McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science answers the question: In behaviors in which you have to move to get information, when should the animal spend more energy on locomotion versus spending more energy on getting more information?

The study is published by the journal PLoS Computational Biology.

Malcolm MacIver, assistant professor of mechanical engineering and of biomedical engineering at McCormick, led a team that analyzed the hunting behavior of the weakly electric black ghost knifefish, native to the Amazon. It hunts at night using a self-generated electric field to sense its surroundings, like a bat uses sonar. This particular animal has become the fruit fly of studies on how animals process sensory information. (The fruit fly has been used extensively to study genetics and developmental biology.)

The fish hunts while its body is tilted downward, which, much like standing up on the pedals of a bicycle while going downhill, causes more than twice as much resistance to movement than if the fish were swimming with no tilt. However, this posture allows the fish to scan a wider area of fresh water and encounter more prey. The researchers found that the increased cost of movement caused by body tilting was more than counterbalanced by increased sensory performance. Past a certain angle of tilt beyond what was naturally observed, the additional cost of moving with the body tilted was greater than the energy gained by sensing more prey.

Neelesh Patankar, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Northwestern, worked with MacIver to develop a hydrodynamic simulation code to calculate the drag forces of the fish when it's hunting and when it's just cruising.

"Once we do simulations we can analyze the hydrodynamics of the fish and come up with an understanding as to why it has to spend energy in this scenario and what is the optimal situation where it can spend minimum energy, for example," said Patankar, a co-author of the study.

"That the fish tilts to be able to scan a larger area for prey despite the energy expense is a very interesting result," MacIver said. "To better understand the way animals are the way they are, we need to not look only at neurological function or only at sensory function -- we have to look at mechanics. We need to think of the intelligence of the body as a central component to our overall intelligence and think of energy saving as cleverness."

The results of the study also suggest that hunting at a drag-inducing position could be the basis for fish's unusual, elongated body.

These findings give insight into certain patterns in animal evolution, such as why we and most other animals have moveable sensory systems like eyes, fingers and arms, MacIver said. "If the fish was able to swivel its region of prey sensitivity, like a vision-based animal can shift its gaze, it would save even more energy," he said. "This conclusion helps us understand why animals like us can move our eyes."

The title of the paper is "Energy-Information Trade-Offs Between Movement and Sensing."

In addition to MacIver and Patankar, the other author of the paper is Anup Shirgaonkar, a former postdoctoral fellow who worked in both MacIver's and Patankar's labs.

The National Science Foundation supported the research.

The study can be found online.

Erin White is the broadcast editor. Contact her at ewhite@northwestern.edu

Erin White | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.northwestern.edu

Further reports about: Amazon basin Biomechanics McCormick Science TV fruit fly

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Cancer diagnosis: no more needles?
25.05.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

nachricht Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found
25.05.2018 | Leibniz-Institut für Alternsforschung - Fritz-Lipmann-Institut e.V. (FLI)

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Powerful IT security for the car of the future – research alliance develops new approaches

The more electronics steer, accelerate and brake cars, the more important it is to protect them against cyber-attacks. That is why 15 partners from industry and academia will work together over the next three years on new approaches to IT security in self-driving cars. The joint project goes by the name Security For Connected, Autonomous Cars (SecForCARs) and has funding of €7.2 million from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. Infineon is leading the project.

Vehicles already offer diverse communication interfaces and more and more automated functions, such as distance and lane-keeping assist systems. At the same...

Im Focus: Molecular switch will facilitate the development of pioneering electro-optical devices

A research team led by physicists at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) has developed molecular nanoswitches that can be toggled between two structurally different states using an applied voltage. They can serve as the basis for a pioneering class of devices that could replace silicon-based components with organic molecules.

The development of new electronic technologies drives the incessant reduction of functional component sizes. In the context of an international collaborative...

Im Focus: LZH showcases laser material processing of tomorrow at the LASYS 2018

At the LASYS 2018, from June 5th to 7th, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) will be showcasing processes for the laser material processing of tomorrow in hall 4 at stand 4E75. With blown bomb shells the LZH will present first results of a research project on civil security.

At this year's LASYS, the LZH will exhibit light-based processes such as cutting, welding, ablation and structuring as well as additive manufacturing for...

Im Focus: Self-illuminating pixels for a new display generation

There are videos on the internet that can make one marvel at technology. For example, a smartphone is casually bent around the arm or a thin-film display is rolled in all directions and with almost every diameter. From the user's point of view, this looks fantastic. From a professional point of view, however, the question arises: Is that already possible?

At Display Week 2018, scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research IAP will be demonstrating today’s technological possibilities and...

Im Focus: Explanation for puzzling quantum oscillations has been found

So-called quantum many-body scars allow quantum systems to stay out of equilibrium much longer, explaining experiment | Study published in Nature Physics

Recently, researchers from Harvard and MIT succeeded in trapping a record 53 atoms and individually controlling their quantum state, realizing what is called a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Save the date: Forum European Neuroscience – 07-11 July 2018 in Berlin, Germany

02.05.2018 | Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

In focus: Climate adapted plants

25.05.2018 | Event News

Flow probes from the 3D printer

25.05.2018 | Machine Engineering

Less is more? Gene switch for healthy aging found

25.05.2018 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>