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Research Spending & Results

Award Detail

  • Christopher P Kenaley
Award Date:07/06/2011
Estimated Total Award Amount: $ 123,000
Funds Obligated to Date: $ 123,000
  • FY 2011=$123,000
Start Date:01/01/2012
End Date:12/31/2013
Transaction Type:Grant
Awarding Agency Code:4900
Funding Agency Code:4900
CFDA Number:47.074
Primary Program Source:040100 NSF RESEARCH & RELATED ACTIVIT
Award Title or Description:NSF Postdoctoral Fellowship in Biology for FY 2011
Federal Award ID Number:1103761
Program:Inters Biol and Math and Phys
Program Officer:
  • Michael Vanni
  • (703) 292-8470

Awardee Location

Awardee Cong. District:07

Primary Place of Performance

Organization Name:Kenaley Christopher P
Cong. District:07

Abstract at Time of Award

This action funds an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in Biology for FY 2011, Intersections of Biology and Mathematical and Physical Sciences. The fellowship supports a research and training plan in a host laboratory for the Fellow whose plan involves innovation at the intersection of biology and robotics. The title of the research and training plan for this fellowship to Christopher Kenaley is "A novel approach to exploring form, function, and behavior in the deep sea using experimental biorobotics." The host institution for this fellowship is Harvard University; and the sponsoring scientists are Drs. George Lauder and Rob Wood. Predatory deep-sea fishes are the primary consumers of crustaceans and intermediate-sized plankton in what is known as the ocean's "twilight zone," that depth in the ocean to which only a small amount of light penetrates, thus driving the largest and most frequent mass movement of animals on Earth. These fishes possess some of the most dramatic feeding morphologies among vertebrates, including huge fangs set on enormous jaws. Because of the inherent difficulties associated with studying deep-sea animals in the laboratory, how morphology limits prey choice in these fish, i.e., the ecomorphology of these fishes, remains largely unexplored. Previously, biologists have relied on manipulation of museum specimens and, more recently, on simple biomechanical models to explore how morphology limits the behavioral repertoire of these fishes. Although these models show promise for the study of feeding ecomorphology, they are limited by current understanding of the hydrodynamics of jaw adduction in fishes. To study relationships between form, function, and feeding behavior in deep-sea fishes, an innovative approach is being taken, one that does not rely on laboratory study, yet is based on empirical analyses. This fellowship supports the experimental study of feeding performance based on robotic models of stomiid dragonfishes, the most diverse group of pelagic predators. Using biorobotic models of a dragonfish lower jaw and head, this project is the first to gather empirical data for the major forces that resist jaw adduction. Experimental analysis of kinematics and fluid dynamics of biorobotic dragonfishes can answer longstanding questions surrounding feeding in deep-sea fishes and provide the empirical information needed to refine existing biomechanical models of jaw adduction and assist in studying the ecomorphology of rare, fragile, or extinct vertebrate fish. Training goals include developing skills in biomechanics and biorobotics. Broader impacts include mentoring students, presenting to K-12 classes, and revising public museum displays to showcase the importance of combining physical and biological sciences in the study of the natural world.

Publications Produced as a Result of this Research

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Kenaley, C. P. "Exploring feeding behaviour in deep-sea dragonfishes (Teleostei: Stomiidae): jaw biomechanics and functional significance of a loosejaw" Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, v.106, 2012, p.224. doi:DOI: 10.1111/j.1095-8312.2012.01854.x 

Kenaley, Christopher P and DeVaney, Shannon C and Fjeran, Taylor T "The complex evolutionary history of seeing red: Molecular phylogeny and the evolution of an adaptive visual system in deep-sea dragonfishes (Stomiiformes: Stomiidae)" Evolution, v.68, 2014, p.996--1013.

Zaccone, Giacomo and Lauriano, Eugenia Rita and Silvestri, Giuseppa and Kenaley, C P and Icardo, Jose M and Pergolizzi, Simona and Alesci, Alessio and Sengar, Manvendra and Kuciel, Michal and Gopesh, Anita "Comparative neurochemical features of the innervation patterns of the gut of the basal actinopterygian, Lepisosteus oculatus, and the euteleost, Clarias batrachus" Acta Zoologica, v., 2013, p..

Project Outcomes Report


This Project Outcomes Report for the General Public is displayed verbatim as submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) for this award. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this Report are those of the PI and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation; NSF has not approved or endorsed its content.

The following is an account of activities completed during 2012–2013, the two-year term of the the PRFB awarded to the PI. To feed affectively, the vast majority of fishes use suction generated from a rapid expansion of the mouth cavity. The aim of the project was to develop a biorobotic model of the teleost feeding system. Fabrication of the robotic model was completed in late 2012 and several series of biorobotic experiments have commenced since then with the general aim of understanding suction feeding fishes. The robot performs in a manner qualitatively similar to the model species, the largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides).  “BassBot” incorporates a three-dimensional armature of the bass head fabricated from plastic. The hard anatomy of the model represents the functional units of the teleost head that expand during feeding. Constrained by the properties and positions of joints found in the bass skull and powered by motors representing the muscles that power mouth expansion, the three-dimensional kinematic profiles of these functional units are precisely controlled. The three specific experimental goals were to (1) evaluate the relationship between the speed of buccal expansion and suction performance; (2) establish the discrete contribution of the hyoid apparatus to suction performance; and (3) evaluate the functional contribution of hyoid musculature to suction performance. Data generated by BassBot revealed that the speed of mouth expansion was a clear predictor of negative pressure generation, an outcome similar to studies focusing on live fishes. Robotic experimentation also suggests that the hyoid apparatus—which constitutes the floor of the mouth—contributes as much as 60% to the total suction generated in a feeding event. Lastly, data generated by BassBot indicate that the structural properties of muscles linking the hyoid apparatus to the lower jaw are important linkages in generating suction. Before this work, the functional significance of these muscles was implicated only in the closing phase of feeding. In general, these outcomes demonstrate the promise of biorobotic models in studies of organismal design. In addition to biorobotic work that elucidates the functional aspects of feeding in fishes, BassBot was used as a model to develop a public display at the Harvard Museum of Natural History that emphasizes the intersection of physical and engineering sciences in the study of biological systems.


Last Modified: 04/25/2014
Modified by: Christopher P Kenaley

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