Research by Geology Professor and Alumnus Published
Associate Professor of Geology Judith Nagel-Myers, a St. Lawrence graduate, and two professors from a neighboring university recently had the results of a project examining how the form of clamshells aids them in withstanding the attacks of crushing predators like stone crabs published in the journal Historical Biology.
Nagel-Myers’ collaboration with Grant Reeder ’15, who generated the first models and assisted with the nanoindentation analysis of the clamshells to assess the physical properties of the shell materials, resulted in his undergraduate thesis, which was the pilot study for this project. Together with Clarkson University’s Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Ioannis Mastorakos and Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Philip Yuya, the team employed Finite Element Analysis (FEA) to simulate with 3D models the crushing forces to which the shells are exposed and how the generated stresses are distributed across different shell shapes.
“This project is an interdisciplinary collaboration bringing together paleontology, material sciences, and engineering to examine the role of shell shape and size as a defensive adaptation against crushing predation,” Nagel-Myers explains. “For the first time, I am applying FEA to assess a question in mollusk biology.”
According to Nagel-Myers, FEA is commonly used in studies of mammal or dinosaur functional morphology such as walking and biting. “My hope is that our study opens the door for this analytical method being more widely used in paleontology and especially pertaining to mollusk morphologies.”
Nagel-Myers is a paleontologist working on mollusk, in particular, clams (bivalves) and their predator-prey interactions throughout the fossil record.
Historical Biology is an international journal of paleobiology.
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