The first week of August I attended the 15th Annual Meeting of the Association of European Vertebrate Palaeontologists (EAVP) in Munich (Germany). I presented my recent join work about biomechanics of the platyrrhine talus with my colleague Thomas Püschel (University of Manchester) where we were studied the biomechanical behaviour of the talus in 40 extant platyrrhine species to test if it was possible to distinguish locomotor behaviours (i.e. suspension, quadrupedalism and leaping). Then, we analysed ten different Miocene fossil samples to compare their stress results with the extant data to infer their possible locomotor behaviours.
But, this was not all my contribution in the conference. Moreover, I was one of the co-organizers of the symposyum “Ecomorphology and functional anatomy in vertebrate palaeontology” together with my colleagues of the Institut Català de Paleontologia (ICP): Josep Fortuny and Soledad De Esteban-Trivigno. This symposium intended to be the meeting point for all functional anatomists and evolutionary ecologists interested in vertebrate palaeontology with more than 20 talks. My talk was included in this symposyum as well the talk of my colleague Josep Fortuny about our join work using Finite Element Analysis (FEA) in current and extanct amphibians and reptiles.
The first day of the conference I was also teaching a four-hours workshop organized by Transmitting Science: “Introduction to Finite Element Analysis”. The workshop introduced vertebrate paleontologists to FEA, which is a great tool to approach problems in biomechanics of living and extinct organisms using digital models.
My works there:
Marcé-Nogué, J. [et al.] “Inferring locomotor behaviours in Miocene New World Monkeys: A comparative Finite Element Analysis of the platyrrhine talus” 15th EAVP. Munich (Germany). 2017
Fortuny, J. [et al.] “3D Computational Biomechanics Meets Amphibians: Ecomorphology And Evolutionary Implications”. 15th EAVP. Munich (Germany). 2017
And, of course, I took some days off to visit Munich and the most known place in Bayern: The castle of Neuschwanstein!
A new paper has been published in Journal of Anatomy studying the paleoecology of extinct amphibian Temnospondyli. The study aims to expand upon the paleoecological interpretations of these animals using 3D Finite Element Analyses (FEA) because the paleoecology of metoposaurids is controversial; they have been historically considered passive, bottom-dwelling animals, waiting for prey on the bottom of rivers and lakes or they have been suggested to be active mid-water feeders.
Skulls from two taxa, Metoposauruskrasiejowensis, a gigantic taxon from Europe, and Apachesaurusgregorii, a non-gigantic taxon from North America, were analyzed under different biomechanical scenarios. Both 3D models of the skulls were scaled to allow comparisons between them and reveal that the general stress distribution pattern found in both taxa is clearly similar in all scenarios. In light of our results, both previous hypotheses about the paleoecology of these animals can be partly merged: metoposaurids probably were ambush and active predators, but not the top predators of these aquatic environments. To demonstrate that the stress distribution is similar in both scenarios we used the new methodology proposed by Marcé-Nogué et al. 2016 in “Accounting for differences in element size and homogeneity when comparing Finite Element models: Armadillos as a case study” which facilitates the comprehension.
The FEA results demonstrate that they were particularly efficient at bilateral biting, and together with their characteristically anteropositioned orbits, optimal for an ambush strategy. Nonetheless, the results also show that these animals were capable of lateral strikes of the head, suggesting active hunting of prey.
Regarding the important skull size differences between the taxa analyzed, our results suggest that the size reduction in the North American taxon could be related to drastic environmental changes or the increase of competitors. The size reduction might have helped them expand into new ecological niches, but they likely remained fully aquatic, as are all other metoposaurids.
Last week was held a new edition of the course about Computer Biomechanics in life sciences using Finite Element Analysis. In last ten years Finite Element Analysis (FEA) become a commonly used method in biology and palaeontology which can be find in lots of recent research publications. As I know, the first paper where FEA was used in the context of paleobiology is the work of Emily Rayfield in the cranial function of Allosaurs published as a letter in Nature [see here!]: And after it, the list of papers is continuously increasing. If you want to know more things about it, I recommend reading the post “FEA for dummies” by the paleobiologist Andrew Cuff.
As a complex methodology, FEA involves a high knowledge of the laws and concepts of continuum mechanics and maths. Especially in numerical solutions of differential equations. But, in order to make thing easier for the scientific community, Soledad de Esteban-Trivigno (from Transmitting Science) proposed me to create a course where all the theoretical background and -of course- the practical approach was explained to biologists, paleontologists or other researchers coming from life sciences. And this is what we are trying to do: give the most important theoretical keys of FEA to the attendants and tricks to create FEA models in software such as CAELinux (the free one) and ANSYS (the expensive one).
In the course, there is an introduction to the Finite Element in order to model biological structures and understand how they worked. It will cover all the steps involved in FEA except the creation or reconstruction of the model, which it is covered in the previous course 3D Model Generation in Biosciences by my colleague Josep Fortuny. And, I know, sometimes is where we are spending most of our time and efforts! That is how to define the material properties of biological structures, the use of a consistent Mesh Generation Methods, and the proper definition of biomechanical boundary conditions and finally, how understand and analyse the results obtained in plane models (the wrong-called 2D) and in the fancy 3D models created from CT-data. But, the limitation of time is always a problem and, in the course, we are just covering static analysis and linear materials. Which it is enough for an starting course because most of the works published in life sciences are covering this part and creates and open window for everybody in the course to learn more in the future.
Un nuevo curso organizado por Transmitting Science se está realizando durante ese mes de marzo en la ciudad Argentina de La Plata sobre “Introducción al análisis funcional a través de la simulación computacional: Modelado digital y Análisis de Elementos Finitos aplicados a biociencias”. El curso se realiza en el edificio CONICET – Centro Científico Tecnológico (CCT) La Plata y está impartido por Josep Fortuny (Institut Català de Paleontologia) y Jordi Marcé-Nogué (Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya).
En este curso se realiza una introducción al análisis de elementos finitos para el modelado de estructuras biológicas. Se abarcan todas las etapas implicadas en FEA (análisis estático) a partir de la creación o reconstrucción del modelo de CT-scan, la forma de definir las propiedades del material de las estructuras biológicas, el uso de una constante de métodos de generación de malla y, por último, cómo entender los resultados obtenido en una simulación computacional.
Durant aquest mes de juny al vestíbul de l’Escola Tècnica Superior d’Enginyeria Industrial i Aeronàutica de Terrassa (www.etseiat.upc.edu) es podrà visitar la petita exposició que hem muntat sobre la recerca en el camp de la biomecànica computacional i la paleobiologia. Aquesta línia d’investigació es realitza conjuntament amb l’Institut Català de Paleontologia (www.icp.cat).
Article publicat el 24 de juliol del 2013 al Diari de Terrassa pel periodista Emili González dins l’especial “Los mejores proyectos en I+D del Campus de la UPC en Terrassa” sobre la línia de recerca en mecànica computacional aplicada a la paleontologia que desenvolupo conjuntament amb l’Institut Català de Paleontologia.
A new edition of “Introduction to biomechanical computer simulation” (Digital modelling and Finite Element Analysis applied to Biosciences) will be done during January 2014 in Hostalets de Pierola (Catalonia). The course is organized by Transmitting Science.
Finite Element Analysis (FEA) is a great tool for biologists, palaeontologists, doctors, veterinarians, and other biosciences specialities in which researchers face questions about biomechanics of living and extinct organisms. In this course, there will be an introduction to the Finite Element in order to modelling biological structures and understand how they worked. It will cover all the steps involved in FEA (for static analysis) starting from the creation or reconstruction of the model, how to define the material properties of biological structures, the use of a consistent Mesh Generation Methods and finally, how understand the results obtained in a computational simulation.