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Functional morphology
Morphological traits are important to study taxonomy and evolution. Moreover, many of these traits are a relevant indicator of an arthropod's ecological function, resource use and responses to environmental conditions. We investigate various morphological features and their variation within and across species. We conduct in-depth studies of the internal and external morphology of single species, as well as broad comparative studies of variation in certain size ratios of body parts. We are particularly interested in exploring three-dimensional traits (see Methods) such as volume or surface areas, or use 3D models to measure relative positions of homologous body structures.

For tropical and temperate ant communities we study the use of trophic resources its relationship with functional morphology of the species in a community. Our main goal is to use complementary approaches to understand the trophic niche in an integrative context. Resources use is assessed with realistic baits in the field and with chemical analyses including stable isotopes and fatty acids. Internal and external morphological traits are obtained with optical morphometry and synchrotron scans.

--> Felix Baumgarten Rosumek, Nico Blüthgen, Micha Heethoff

Ptychoidy is a defensive mechanism that probably evolved three times independently in oribatid mites. It enables the animals to retract their legs and mouthparts into a secondary cavity in the idiosoma and by deflecting the prodorsum encapsulate themselves. The mechanism is very complex, requiring several exoskeletal and muscular adaptations. And the study of those features in the three groups reveals that every group meets these requirements differently based on their phylogenetic background (for example the accommodation of hemolymph displacement during encapsulation).

--> Sebastian Schmelzle, Micha Heethoff

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