Preface

Ecology and Biomechanics: A Mechanical Approach to the Ecology of Animals and Plants. When we decided upon this title there were two elements we wanted to emphasize: first, that biomechanical approaches have a lot to offer to ecological questions and second, that the approaches included in this book are independent of the organism being studied. Indeed, the present collection of state-of-the-art papers beautifully highlights how biomechanics can provide novel insights into long standing ecological and evolutionary questions (e.g., Chapters 4 and 14). As illustrated, for example, in the chapter by Wendy Griffiths (Chapter 5) on grazing in ruminants, there is tremendous scope for applying engineering principles to the understanding of foraging strategies used by animals. Although most of the examples included in the book emphasize distinct organism-environment relationships, it is foreseeable that in the longer term these kinds of approaches will span larger temporal and spatial scales to achieve wider application across ecosystems. The chapter by Karen Christensen-Dalsgaard (Chapter 13) nicely illustrates this, and highlights how microbial ecosystems can be understood from the mechanics, morphology, and motile responses of the individual organisms. The range of topics covered clearly demonstrates that increasing numbers of workers have begun to combine biomechanics and ecology to generate novel insights into questions of an ecological nature.

We hope that this book will highlight the important cross fertilization that can occur by combining approaches from two — at first sight — very disparate subdisciplines within the general field of biology and will stimulate other researchers to follow these kinds of approaches. The subjects covered include research based on both plants (Chapters 1 to 4) and animals (Chapters 10 and 12) as well as the interaction between plants and animals (Chapters 5 to 9). By highlighting both theoretical concepts and practical approaches, we hope that this book will be an important reference for students and researchers alike. Most of the chapters included in this book were originally presented at a symposium entitled 'Ecology and Biomechanics" held at the annual meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology in Edinburgh, U.K., in April 2004. Generous support by the Biomechanics Group of the Society for Experimental Biology enabled us to invite many outstanding speakers, most of whom decided to contribute to the present volume.

Anthony Herrel is a postdoctoral researcher of the Fund for Scientific Research, Flanders, Belgium (FWO-Vl). Thomas Speck is Professor for Functional Morphology and Director of the Botanic Garden of the Albert-Ludwigs-Universitat Freiburg (Germany). Nick Rowe is Chargé de Recherche (CNRS) at the Botanique and Bioinformatique Research Institute, Montpellier, France.

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