Robert Dudley

Professor of Integrative Biology
Keywords: mechanics, controls, evolution
Research Areas: biomechanics, fluid dynamics, energetics, flight, butterflies, energetics, gliding, hummingbirds, insects, metabolism, paleophysiology

Research Description:

Our lab works on the biomechanics, energetics, and evolution of animal flight. Flight performance is investigated using high-speed three-dimensional videography, metabolic measurements, particle-image velocimetry, and physically-variable gas mixtures. Two current goals are to describe three-dimensional maneuvers in both hummingbirds and butterflies, and to evaluate the allometry of maximum lift and power production in Neotropical orchid bees and in hovering hummingbirds. We also fly hummingbirds in a large wind tunnel to investigate forward flight performance. Laboratory studies of flight biomechanics are complemented by fieldwork around the planet, including the ecophysiology of butterfly migrations in Panama, gliding in Southeast Asian flying lizards, hummingbird flight metabolism across elevational gradients in Peru, high-altitude adaptation in Sichuan bumblebees, and controlled aerial behavior in wingless hexapods of the Neotropical forest canopy. Research students are encouraged to ask idiosyncratic biomechanical and ecophysiological questions to which a diversity of technological and phylogenetic approaches available in the lab may be applied.

Selected publications:

  • Srygley, R.B. and R. Dudley. Optimal strategies for insects migrating in the flight
    boundary layer: mechanisms and consequences. Integrative and Comparative Biology 48:119-133, 2008.
  • Yanoviak, S.P., Dudley, R. and M. Kaspari. Directed aerial descent in arboreal ants. Nature 433: 624-626, 2005.
  • McGuire, J.A. and R. Dudley. The cost of living large: comparative gliding performance in flying lizards (Agamidae: Draco). American Naturalist 166:93-106, 2005.
  • Altshuler, D.L., Dudley, R. and J.A. McGuire. Resolution of a paradox: hummingbird flight at high elevation does not come without a cost. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA 101:17731-17736, 2004.
  • Stiles, F.G., Altshuler, D.L. and R. Dudley. Of hummingbirds and helicopters: hovering costs, competitive ability and foraging strategies. American Naturalist 163:16- 25, 2004.
  • Altshuler, D.L., Dudley, R. and C.P. Ellington. Aerodynamic forces of revolving hummingbird wings and wing models. Journal of Zoology, London 264:327-332, 2004.
  • Childress, S. and R. Dudley. Transition between ciliary to flapping mode in a swimming mollusc: flapping flight as a bifurcation in Rew. Journal of Fluid Mechanics 498:257- 288, 2004.
  • Dillon, M. and R. Dudley. Allometry of maximum vertical force production during hovering flight of Neotropical orchid bees (Apidae: Euglossini). Journal of Experimental Biology 207:417-425, 2004.
  • Roberts, S.P., Harrison, J.F., and R. Dudley. Allometry of kinematics and energetics in Carpenter Bees (Xylocopa varipuncta) hovering in variable-density gases. Journal of Experimental Biology 207:993-1004, 2004.
  • Dudley, R. The Biomechanics of Insect Flight: Form, Function, Evolution. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 476 pp, 2000.

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