Another in the series of abstracts. This was my abstract for the think-tank conference at the Konrad Lorenz Institute in Vienna, Austria in September 2010. These are invite-only sessions on various hot topics related to evolutionary biology. Ours was on the "Constraints and Evolution of Form" - basically an Evo Devo related gig. I was the resident biomechanist for this one.
Emergence of convergent forms under fluid load in plants and animals
Very few biomechanists examine both plants and animals in parallel, apparently under a tacit assumption that the rules of shape determination must differ substantially between such distantly related groups. However, convergent structures suggest that the rules of shape governing these groups are largely the same. Such similarities suggest that environmental constraints are important in determining shape, and/or that genomes are more plastic and prone to morphological convergence than often accepted. I suggest that reference to physical first principles should be made whenever shape is examined in multi-cellular organisms, regardless of their phylogenetic position. As a case example, I report on the presence of highly convergent structures related to resistance and passive yield under aerodynamic fluid load in plants and animals. I utilize examples from both living and fossil forms, including broad-leafed trees, neornithine birds, and azhdarchid pterosaurs.