David Ellerby

David Ellerby
Curriculum Vitae

(781) 283-3073
Biological Sciences
B.S., University of Manchester, UK; Ph.D., University of Leeds, UK

David Ellerby

Professor of Biological Sciences

Investigating the physiology and mechanics of animal locomotion.

"…The inimitable Subtlety of Nature's Curious Workmanship." Robert Boyle, 1627-91

My research focuses on the physiology and mechanics of animal locomotion. For many animals, effective and economical locomotion is essential for survival. Successfully capturing prey or avoiding predators may require rapid accelerations, high speeds, and maneuverability. The energetic costs of locomotion during more routine activities also form a significant part of daily energy expenditure. Measurements of locomotor performance and energetic cost can therefore provide insight into many aspects of animal physiology, behavior, and ecology such as predator-prey interactions, daily energy budgets, and migration. Current research in the lab is investigating the allocation of energy expenditure between skeletal muscles performing different tasks in swimming fish. We are also determining the functional consequences of habitat-specific morphological variation within fish populations.

My teaching interests are centered on physiology, biomechanics, and behavior. Humans are unusual apes: Our anatomy, physiology, and behavior have unique aspects that set us apart from our closest evolutionary relatives. An introductory level human biology course explores the fundamentals of human evolution and the integrated function of our physiological systems. A biomechanics research seminar is focused on the development of research skills, critical analysis of the recent primary literature, and the development of novel laboratory research projects. I also co-teach an animal behavior course. My teaching within this course concerns the neuronal control of behavior and the application of modeling approaches to understand foraging, territoriality, and parental care.

Other projects in the lab are investigating muscle function in medicinal leeches, and the mechanics of ballistic seed dispersal in plants. Leeches show extreme plasticity of muscle function while feeding and performing a range of locomotor behaviors. We are investigating how hormones can modulate the mechanical properties of the body wall muscle that powers these behaviors. Some plant species use catapult like structures to disperse their seeds. We are combining ballistic analyses with measures of catapult tissue properties to investigate the performance of plant catapults.