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Evolutionary Biomechanics

Graham Taylor and Adrian Thomas

Published in print January 2014 | ISBN: 9780198566373
Published online April 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780191779459 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198566373.001.0001

Series: Oxford Series in Ecology and Evolution

Evolutionary Biomechanics

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Evolutionary biomechanics is the study of evolution through the analysis of biomechanical systems. Its unique advantage is the precision with which physical constraints and performance can be predicted from first principles. Biomechanical examples illustrate particularly clearly the optimising tendency of natural selection, and the way in which adaptive change is contingent upon phylogenetic history and physical constraint. Instead of reviewing the entire breadth of the biomechanical literature, this book explores a few key examples in depth, as vehicles for discussing fundamental concepts, analytical techniques, and evolutionary theory. Each chapter explores a different conceptual theme, developing the theory and techniques required for analyses in evolutionary biomechanics. Examples from terrestrial biomechanics, metabolic scaling, and bird flight are used to analyse how physics constrains the design space that natural selection is free to explore, and how adaptive evolution finds solutions to trade-offs between multiple complex conflicting performance objectives. The book draws upon a uniquely broad range of theory in achieving its goals, bringing together population genetics, statistics, mechanics, aerodynamics, and multi-objective optimization in one volume. The book begins by rehabilitating the adaptive landscape metaphor into our modern gene-centric understanding of evolution, and concludes with a phylogenetically-controlled comparative analysis of wing design in birds that motivates a mapping from morphospace to performance space, and an analysis of adaptation through the theory of multi-objective optimization. The concept of Pareto optimality is used to crystallize Evolutionary Biomechanics as the study of the interaction of selection, phylogeny, and constraint in the diversification of species through adaptive evolution.

Keywords: biomechanics; evolution; natural selection; adaptation; optimization; Pareto; adaptive landscape; constraint; comparative method; phylogeny

Book.  176 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology ; Vertebrates

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Table of Contents

Themes in Evolutionary Biomechanics

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Selection in Evolutionary Biomechanics

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Constraint in Evolutionary Biomechanics

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Scaling in Evolutionary Biomechanics

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Phylogeny in Evolutionary Biomechanics

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