Meeting Abstract

S1-5.1  Jan. 6  Role Models Play in Biomechanics WESTNEAT, M. W.; Field Museum of Natural History

Biomechanics is rich in models: mathematical models, physical models, and role models. Using biomechanical models is one way that role models such as Steve Vogel make a complex subject accessible and fun, and help the rest of us achieve a “contemptuous familiarity” with biomechanics. In addition to celebrating how one of our best role models plays in biomechanics, I will discuss the role models play in biomechanics. Using several different kinds of biomechanical models: (mathematical, physical, and integrated computer models), this study will explore the utility of modeling in research and teaching. Most models start out simple but they can become complex, potentially limiting their use by others. How can we make complex models accessible? Models can play a central role in studies of basic functional morphology, developmental change in a system, and phylogenetic change in function among related forms. Examples from fishes are used to answer questions such as, how can we use models to test for functional convergence in biomechanics? How do we define functional characters and determine when they are convergent or redundant? When is a physical model better than the same idea written out as equations? The primary conclusions of this study are that (1) most biomechanical models are equations written on a page that present hurdles for easy deployment by others, (2) physical models, when possible, are the best for teaching, (3) integrated computer models that are easy to use and come with a user manual are the best for getting others to use your model. Roll that model!