Classical Engineering Systems Provide Behavioral Analog for Ephemeral Insect and Plant Biomechanics


In this dissertation we consider ephemeral behaviors of two small-scale living systems, mosquitoes and citrus fruit reservoirs. While these two systems share few obvious commonalities, they both express life events that are complex and conclude within approximately 50 milliseconds. We utilize high-speed videography, between 1,000-16,000 fps, to detail how complex behavior can be modeled as classical engineering systems. Beginning with the larger organism we assessed the landing and takeoff behavior of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes to ascertain the secrets of their covert interaction with humans. At takeoff, mosquitoes decrease pushing contact time with substrates of low friction through a modified takeoff behavior of striking the substrate with a hind-leg prior to a classic push phase. We propose a 2D analog where the striking leg acts as a rotating cantilever about a fixed end that generates upward momentum with a small penalty in body rotation. Landing mosquitoes are filmed in 2D and modeled as a mass-spring-damper system whose natural frequency, damping coefficient, ratio, and spring constant are determined experimentally and validated through a nonlinear least square solver fitting of the free vibration ODE\u27s general solution. Results indicate mosquitoes behave as an underdamped system to scrub their incoming momentum through extending impact duration, effectively reducing temporal impact force. Shrinking in scale we proceed to characterize citrus reservoir rupture as a passive system capable of microjetting oil through expanding orifices at accelerations greater than 5000 gravities. Citrus reservoirs are modeled as ellipsoidal pressure vessels capped by a thin membrane of contrasting stiffness to the surrounding ductile compressible albedo

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