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Department of Zoology



I am interested in how animals work, and what physical factors play an important role for their biology and interactions with other organisms. Our current focus is on the functional morphology and biomechanics of insects, on surface attachment mechanisms in animals, and insect-plant interactions.


Key publications: 
  • Endlein T and Federle W (2013). Rapid preflexes in smooth adhesive pads of insects prevent sudden detachment. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 280, 20122868.
  • Moll K, Roces F and Federle W (2013). How load-carrying ants avoid falling over: mechanical stability during foraging in Atta vollenweideri grass-cutting ants. PLoS ONE 8, e52816.
  • Peattie AM, Dirks J-H, Henriques S & Federle W (2011). Arachnids secrete a fluid over their adhesive pads. PLoS ONE 6: e20485.
  • Clemente CJ, Bullock JMR, Beale A & Federle W (2010). Evidence for self-cleaning in fluid-based smooth and hairy adhesive systems of insects. Journal of Experimental Biology 213: 635-642.
  • Dirks J-H, Clemente CJ & Federle W (2010). Insect tricks: two-phasic foot pad secretion prevents slipping. Journal of The Royal Society Interface 7: 587-593.
  • Bauer U, Bohn HF & Federle W (2008). Harmless nectar source or deadly trap: Nepenthes pitchers are activated by rain, condensation and nectar. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 275: 259-265.
  • Clemente CJ & Federle W (2008). Pushing versus pulling: division of labour between tarsal attachment pads in cockroaches. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 275: 1329-1336.
  • Federle W (2006). Why are so many adhesive pads hairy? Journal of Experimental Biology 209: 2611-2621.
  • Bohn HF & Federle W (2004). Insect aquaplaning: Nepenthes pitcher plants capture prey with the peristome, a fully wettable water-lubricated anisotropic surface. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 101: 14138-14143.
  • Federle W, Riehle M, Curtis ASG & Full RJ (2002). An integrative study of insect adhesion: mechanics and wet adhesion of pretarsal pads in ants. Integrative and Comparative Biology 42: 1100-1106.
  • Federle W, Brainerd EL, McMahon TA & Hölldobler B (2001). Biomechanics of the movable pretarsal adhesive organ in ants and bees. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 98: 6215-6220.
Other publications: 
  • Whitney HM and Federle W (2013). Biomechanics of plant-insect interactions. Current Opinion in Plant Biology 16, 105–111.
  • Scharmann M, Thornham DG, Grafe TU and Federle W (2013). A novel type of nutritional ant-plant interaction: ant partners of carnivorous pitcher plants prevent nutrient export by dipteran pitcher infauna. PLoS ONE 8, e63556.
  • Bauer U, Clemente CJ, Renner T & Federle W (2012). Form follows function: morphological diversification and alternative trapping strategies in carnivorous Nepenthes pitcher plants. Journal of Evolutionary Biology 25: 90-102.
  • Dirks J-H, Li M, Kabla A & Federle W (2012). In vivo dynamics of the internal fibrous structure in smooth adhesive pads of insects. Acta Biomaterialia 8: 2730-2736.
  • Thornham DG, Smith JM, Grafe TU & Federle W (2012). Setting the trap: cleaning behaviour of Camponotus schmitzi ants increases long-term capture efficiency of their pitcher plant host, Nepenthes bicalcarata. Functional Ecology 26: 11-19.
  • Bullock JMR & Federle W (2011). Beetle adhesive hairs differ in stiffness and stickiness: In vivo adhesion measurements on individual setae. Naturwissenschaften 98: 381-387.
  • Moll K, Roces F & Federle W (2010). Foraging grass-cutting ants (Atta vollenweideri) maintain stability by balancing their loads with controlled head movements. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 196: 471-480.
  • Bullock JMR & Federle W (2009). Division of labour and sex differences between fibrillar, tarsal adhesive pads in beetles: effective elastic modulus and attachment performance. Journal of Experimental Biology 212: 1876-1888.
  • Clemente CJ, Dirks J-H, Barbero DR, Steiner U & Federle W (2009). Friction ridges in cockroach climbing pads: anisotropy of shear stress measured on transparent, microstructured substrates. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 195: 805-814.
  • Endlein T & Federle W (2008). Walking on smooth or rough ground: passive control of pretarsal attachment in ants. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 194: 49-60.
  • Scholz I, Baumgartner W & Federle W (2008). Micromechanics of smooth adhesive organs in stick insects: pads are mechanically anisotropic and softer towards the adhesive surface. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 194: 373-384.
  • Drechsler P & Federle W (2006). Biomechanics of smooth adhesive pads in insects: Influence of tarsal secretion on attachment performance. Journal of Comparative Physiology A 192: 1213-1222.
  • Federle W, Barnes WJP, Baumgartner W, Drechsler P & Smith JM (2006). Wet but not slippery: boundary friction in tree frog adhesive toe pads. Journal of The Royal Society Interface 3: 689-697
  • Federle W & Rheindt F (2005). Macaranga ant-plants hide food from intruders: correlation of food presentation and presence of wax barriers analysed using phylogenetically independent contrasts. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 84: 177-193.
  • Federle W & Endlein T (2004). Locomotion and adhesion: dynamic control of adhesive surface contact in ants. Arthropod Structure & Development 33: 67-75.
  • Federle W, Maschwitz U & Hölldobler B (2002). Pruning of host plant neighbors as defence against enemy ant invasions: Crematogaster ant partners of Macaranga protected by 'wax barriers' prune less than their congeners. Oecologia 132: 264-270.
  • Federle W, Rohrseitz K & Hölldobler B (2000). Attachment forces of ants measured with a centrifuge: better "wax-runners" have a poorer attachment to a smooth surface. Journal of Experimental Biology 203: 505-512.
  • Federle W, Leo A, Moog J, Azarae HI & Maschwitz U (1999). Myrmecophagy undermines ant-plant mutualisms: ant-eating Callosciurus squirrels (Rodentia: Sciuridae) damage ant-plants in Southeast Asia. Ecotropica 5: 35-43.
  • Federle W, Maschwitz U, Fiala B, Riederer M & Hölldobler B (1997). Slippery ant-plants and skilful climbers: Selection and protection of specific ant partners by epicuticular wax blooms in Macaranga (Euphorbiaceae). Oecologia 112: 217-224.
Professor of Comparative Biomechanics

Contact Details

Austin Building, Room S18
01223 (7)63435
Accepting applications for PhD students.