Tag Archives: PhD alumni


Marion Segall’s PhD defense. Water as a driver of evolution: the example of aquatic snakes

PhD defense on November 10th, at 2pm, in the auditorium of the Grande Galerie de l’Evolution.

Water as a driver of evolution: the example of aquatic snakes

Marion Segall

1. UMR 7179, CNRS-MNHN, Mécanismes adaptatifs et Evolution, équipe FUNEVOL, Département d’Ecologie et de Gestion de la Biodiversité. Pavillon d’anatomie comparée, 55 rue Buffon, case postale 55, 75231 Paris cedex 5, France.
2. UMR 7636, CNRS, ESPCI Paris–PSL Research University, Sorbonne Université, U Paris Diderot, Physique et Mécanique des Milieux Hétérogènes. 10 rue Vauquelin, 75005 Paris, France


Animal-environment interactions are determinant in driving the evolution of phenotypic variation. Most aquatic animals have developed adaptations to overcome the physical constraints inherent to an aquatic lifestyle and particularly to motion in water. These constraints are the drag and the added mass if an acceleration is involved in the motion, such as during prey capture. The aim of this project is to evaluate the role of water as a potential driver of evolution of aquatic snakes by focusing on morphological and behavioral convergences during underwater prey capture. Snakes are a good model as an aquatic life-style has originated independently in different genera. However, aquatic snakes did not develop a suction feeding system in contrast to most aquatic vertebrates. Prey-capture under water is constrained by the physical properties of the fluid and thus morphological and/or behavioral convergence is expected. By comparing the head shapes and the behavior of different species, we evaluated the impact of water on the evolution of head shape and strike behavior. By using experimental fluid mechanics approaches, we quantified the physical constraints involved in prey capture and evaluated the nature of the evolutionary response in response to these hydrodynamic constraints. This interdisciplinary approach allowed us to bring novel data to our understanding of functional constraints as drivers of phenotypic evolution.


Harvey LILLYWHITE (University of Florida) Rapporteur
Patricia ERN (Institut de Mécanique des Fluides de Toulouse) Rapporteur
Sam VAN WASSENBERGH (Universiteit Antwerpen) Examinateur
Catherine QUILLIET (Université Grenoble-Alpes) Examinateur
Anthony HERREL (Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle) Directeur de thèse
Ramiro GODOY-DIANA (ESPCI Paris – CNRS) Directeur de thèse


Sophie Ramananarivo’s PhD: Propulsion biomimétique de structures élastiques

PhD defense on January 10, 2014 at ESPCI

Propulsion biomimétique de structures élastiques

Sophie Ramananarivo



Birds and aquatic animals exploit the surrounding fluid to propel themselves in air or water. In inertial regimes, the mechanisms of propulsion are based on momentum transfer; by flapping wings or fins, animals accelerate fluid in their wake, creating a jet that propels them forward. The structures used to move can be flexible, and are thus likely to experiment large bending. Literature showed that those passive deformations can improve propulsive performance, when exploited in a constructive way. The mechanisms at play however remain poorly understood. In the present thesis, we aim at studying how a flapping elastic structure generates thrust, using two experimental biomimetic models. The first setup is a simplified mechanical insect with flexible wings, and the second one is a swimmer whose elastic body mimics the undulating motion of an eel. We show that propulsive performance is significantly influenced by the way the systems passively bend, and that their elastic response can be described by simplified theoretical models of forced oscillators. Those models also bring forward the crucial role of the quadratic fluid damping that resists the flapping motion. This result introduces the counter-intuitive idea that it is sometimes desirable to dissipate part of the energy in the fluid, in order to improve performance.

Christophe Clanet (Rapporteur)
Christophe Eloy (Rapporteur)
Yves Couder (Président)
Emmanuel de Langre (Examinateur)
Jean-Marc Di Meglio (Examinateur)
Ramiro Godoy-Diana (Directeur de Thèse)
Benjamin Thiria (Directeur de Thèse)


Catherine Marais’ PhD. Dynamique tourbillonnaire dans le sillage d’un aileron oscillant

PhD defense on January 14th, 2011 at Amphi Langevin, ESPCI

Dynamique tourbillonnaire dans le sillage d’un aileron oscillant: Propulsion par ailes battantes biomimétiques

Catherine Marais



This thesis deals with the fundamental mechanisms implied in flapping based propulsion systems. We use a simplified model, which consists of a flapping foil, placed in a hydrodynamic tunnel. This set up allows us to establish a framework for the analyse of wakes produced. Particularly, we are interested with the influence of the foil flexibility on these wakes. We define a 2D phase space (frequency and amplitude of the flapping), in which we identify three main flow regimes, associated with three vortices wake type. The PIV technique allows us to precisely analyse and quantify the physical and geometrical parameters of the observed wakes. The mean force is estimated for each regime, using a standard momentum balance. We localise then the drag-propulsion transition in our phase space. We show that the propulsive performance of flexible foils is superior to that of the rigid foil, and we suggest some explanations to explain this result.


Olivier Doaré (Examinateur) ENSTA, Palaiseau
Marie Farge (Examinatrice) ENS, Paris
Stéphane Popinet (Rapporteur) NIWA, New Zealand
Lionel Schouveiler (Rapporteur) IRPHE, Marseille
José Eduardo Wesfreid (Directeur de thèse) PMMH, Paris
Ramiro Godoy-Diana (Co-Directeur de thèse) PMMH, Paris