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Author ORCID Identifier


Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Organismic and Evolutionary Biology

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Gary B. Gillis

Second Advisor

Sheila N. Patek

Third Advisor

Elizabeth M. Jakob

Fourth Advisor

Duncan J. Irshick

Subject Categories

Biomechanics | Integrative Biology


There are consequences of moving quickly in this world. Here we investigate how two very different species, mantis shrimp (Odontodactylus scyllarus) and cane toads (Bufo marinus), negotiate forces that result from moving rapidly in different environments. To study the mechanical principles and fluid dynamics of ultrafast power-amplified systems, we built Ninjabot, a physical model of the extremely fast mantis shrimp. While mantis shrimp produce damaging cavitation upon impact with their prey, they do not cavitate during the forward portion of their strike despite extreme speeds. In order to study cavitation onset in non-linear flows common during the mantis shrimp strike, we used Ninjabot to produce strikes of varying kinematics and measured cavitation presence or absence. We found that in rotating and accelerating biological conditions, cavitation inception is best explained only by maximum linear velocity. Thus, studies of cavitation onset in biological conditions only need to focus on maximum velocity. On land, moving quickly requires avoiding or preparing for impact with other objects, often the ground. Within anurans (frogs and toads), a group well known for jumping, cane toads are known to perform particularly controlled landings in which the forelimbs are used to decelerate and balance the body after impact as the hind limbs are lowered to the ground. Here I explore whether and how toads modulate landing preparation depending on hopping and landing conditions and what this can tell us about how they utilize sensory information to help them perform controlled landings. We found that toads modulate three components of impact preparation to specific hop conditions: 1) They position the forelimbs to hit the ground first by protracting and abducting the humeri, 2) They prepare and brace for impact by extending the elbows and activating underlying musculature to stiffen the joint and 3) they control torques during the landing by retracting the hind limbs and rotating the forelimbs to align with the impact angle. By perturbing landing conditions we found that toads tune these components to specific landing conditions with a combination of passive and active control and toads do so by primarily relying on non-visual sensory feedback.