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Dr. Tom Weihmann

Research

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My research follows a highly interdisciplinary approach. Based on comparative biomechanics and functional morphology approaches, I work at the interface of various disciplines such as behavioural biology, ecology, neurobiology, physiology, phylogeny and biophysics. My focus is to understand organisms in full scope; that is to understand organisms as part of their typical ecosystems. To give two examples: Why is legged locomotion so successful in colonizing terrestrial ecosystems? How could the transition from water to land, but also vice versa, have taken place? Often such questions can be traced back to the organisms’ abilities to move around and ingest food, which covers exactly the two movement systems on which my research is mainly focussed.

Fast escape and attacks are crucial behaviours in the life of many animal species. Consequently, the ability to run quickly is important for legged terrestrial species. In order to answer persistent questions about legged terrestrial locomotion I am examining fast running arthropods like spiders, ants and cockroaches. Additionally, I use self-developed numerical models (MatLab™) to tackle experimentally less accessible problems. In the experiments, I use high speed video to capture running bouts on differently rough substrates and under changing temperature regimes. The examinations include coordination patterns and movement dynamics. For the analyses, I use current digitalization technology and self-written programmes.

My research on food intake is focused on biting chewing mouth parts of cockroaches, mantises and related groups. Mechanically these insects’ mouth parts are relatively simple and are well suited for integrative examinations. Moreover, they provide a prime example for the ancient configuration of insect mouth parts from which all the derived forms originate. Functional comparisons with alternative biting tools like pincers and chelicerae of crustaceans and solifuges provide deeper insight in the challenges life imposes on biological structures.

The experiments on arthropod biting comprise measurements of bite forces, mouth part kinematics as well as examinations of the driving muscles’ activity via electromyography (EMG). Additionally I also use morphological (µCT) and histological approaches to characterize the muscles involved in biting and chewing. The experimental approaches are supplemented by numerical models (MATLAB™), which allow statements on muscle forces and muscle function. Combined, the experimental and numerical approaches make it possible to extract mechanisms that ultimately can also be used in robotics.

Media attention

Co-operations

I am cooperating with my colleagues from the Büschges lab, particularly with respect to histology and electromyographic examinations. Outside Cologne I cooperate with colleagues of the Zoological Research Museum König Bonn (morphology, µCT), the University of Stuttgart (muscle physiology, modelling), the University of Cambridge (locomotion on different substrates), the LMU Munich (modelling) and the University of Greifswald (multi-legged locomotion of centipedes).

 

Publications

  • Wipfler, B., F. Triesch, D. Evangelista, T. Weihmann (in revision) Morphological, functional and phylogenetic aspects of the head capsule of the cockroach Ergaula capucina (Insecta / Blattodea)
  • Günther M., R. Rockenfeller, T. Weihmann, D.F.B. Haeufle, T. Götz, S. Schmitt (in revision) Unveiling some rules of nature's Formula Run: muscle mechanics during late stance.
  • Weihmann T. & B. Wipfler (in press) The generalized feeding apparatus of cockroaches – a model for biting and chewing insects. In: Insect Mouthparts - Form, Function, Development and Performance, Editor: Krenn, H.W., Springer, Zoological Monographs
  • Weihmann F., S. Weihmann, T. Weihmann (2019) Conservation genetic analysis of a Central-European range-margin population of the yellow-bellied toad (Bombina v. variegata). Conservation Genetics 20(3), 557-569
  • Weihmann T. (2018) Leg force interference in poly-pedal locomotion. Science Advances 4: eaat3721
  • Weihmann T., PG. Brun, E. Pycroft (2017) Speed dependent phase shifts and gait changes in a fast running cockroach. Frontiers in Biology 14(1)
  • Weihmann F., D. Desimini, J. Gepp, T. Weihmann, W. Lanner (2017) Amphibienschutzanlage „Winzendorf“(L406 bei Pöllau, Steiermark) – Akzeptanzkontrolle 10 Jahre nach Errichtung. Mertensiella 24, 185-196
  • Wipfler B., K. Weißing, K.-D. Klass, T. Weihmann (2016) The cephalic morphology of the American roach Periplaneta americana (Blattodea). Arthropod Systematics & Phylogeny 74(3): 267-297<
  • Weihmann T., L. Reinhardt, K. Weißing, T. Siebert, B. Wipfler: (2015) Fast and powerful: Biomechanics and bite forces of the mandibles in the American cockroach Periplaneta americana. PLoS ONE 10(11)<
  • Weihmann T., T. Kleinteich, S. Gorb, B. Wipfler: (2015) Functional Morphology of the chewing apparatus of the cockroach Periplaneta americana - A model species for generalist omnivore insects. Arthropod Systematics & Phylogeny 73(3)
  • Weihmann T., H.-H. Goetzke, M. Günther (2015) Requirements and limits of anatomy based predictions of the locomotion in terrestrial arthropods. J Paleontol 89(6): 980-990
  • Weihmann T. (2013) Crawling at high speeds: Steady level locomotion in the spider Cupiennius salei -Global kinematics and implications for centre of mass dynamics. PLoS ONE 8(6)
  • Weihmann T., M. Günther, R. Blickhan (2012) Hydraulic leg extension is not necessarily the main drive in large spiders. J. exp. Biol. 215: 578-583
  • Günther M. & T. Weihmann (2012). Climbing in hexapods: A plain model for heavy slopes. J. theor. Biol. 293: 82-86 DOI:10.1016/j.jtbi.2011.10.011
  • Günther M. & T. Weihmann (2011). The load distribution among three legs on the wall - model predictions for cockroaches. Arch. Appl. Mech. 81(9): 1269-87 DOI: 10.1007/s00419-010-0485-9
  • Weihmann T., M. Karner, RJ. Full, R. Blickhan (2010) Jumping kinematics in the wandering spider Cupiennius salei. J. comp. Physiol. A(196): 421-438
  • Weihmann T. and R. Blickhan (2009) Comparing inclined locomotion in a ground-living and a climbing ant species: sagittal plane kinematics. J. comp. Physiol. A 195(11): 1011-1020
  • Siebert T., T. Weihmann, C. Rode, R. Blickhan (2009) Cupiennius salei: Biomechanical properties of the tibia-metatarsus joint and its flexing muscles. J. comp. Physiol. B 180(2): 199-209
  • Reinhardt L., T. Weihmann, R. Blickhan (2009). Dynamics and kinematics of ant-locomotion: do wood ants climb on level surfaces? J. exp. Biol. 212(15):2426-35
  • Blickhan R., S. Petkun S, T. Weihmann & M. Karner(2005) Schnelle Bewegungen bei Arthropoden: Strategien und Mechanismen. Autonomes Laufen, eds Pfeiffer F & Cruse H (Springer, Berlin Heidelberg), pp 19-45.

Teaching

Term projects, internships and theses

I supervise term projects, internships and theses in the following areas:

  • Analyses of the locomotion of fast-moving arthropods (insects, arachnids, isopods, centipedes). The focus will be on biomechanical aspects, functional morphology, dynamics and control of movement systems.
  • Functioning of the chewing apparatus of insects. Biomechanics, functional morphology and control strategies but also muscle physiology and functioning are important here.

Numerical models (MATLAB™) will be (further) developed for both issues in order to investigate specific aspects that are inaccessible for experimental approaches.

Interested students are welcome to contact me (tom.weihmannSpamProtectionuni-koeln.de) or simply come by (room 1.514).