A Model of Larval Biomechanics Reveals Exploitable Passive Properties for Efficient Locomotion

  • Dylan Ross
  • Konstantinos Lagogiannis
  • Barbara Webb
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 9222)


To better understand the role of natural dynamics in motor control, we have constructed a mathematical model of crawling mechanics in larval Drosophila.

The model accounts for key anatomical features such as a segmentally patterned, viscoelastic outer body wall (cuticle); a non-segmented inner cavity (haemocoel) filled with incompressible fluid that enables visceral pistoning; and claw-like protrusions (denticle bands) giving rise to asymmetric friction.

Under conditions of light damping and low forward kinetic friction, and with a single cuticle segment initially compressed, the passive dynamics of this model produce wave-like motion resembling that of real larvae. The presence of a volume-conserving hydrostatic skeleton allows a wave reaching the anterior of the body to initiate a new wave at the posterior, thus recycling energy. Forcing our model with a sinusoidal input reveals conditions under which power transfer from control to body may be maximised. A minimal control scheme using segmentally localised positive feedback is able to exploit these conditions in order to maintain wave-like motion indefinitely. These principles could form the basis of a design for a novel, soft-bodied, crawling robot.


Larval Drosophila Biomechanical model Positive feedback control Peristaltic motion 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dylan Ross
    • 1
  • Konstantinos Lagogiannis
    • 1
  • Barbara Webb
    • 1
  1. 1.School of InformaticsUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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