Internship/ thesis project: Aerodynamics of Morpho butterfly flight

Internship/ thesis project: Aerodynamics of Morpho butterfly flight

  • Stage / Internship
  • Wageningen

For MARIN Academy we are looking for a student for the following MSc internship/assignment:

“Aerodynamics of Morpho butterfly flight”
Morpho butterflies are among the largest flying insects, and at this size (i.e. Reynolds number) gliding flight becomes possible. As a result, Morpho’s can use the flap-gliding flight mode(1), which is common in birds but exceptional in insects.

In a joint project, we investigate how morpho butterflies use flap-gliding to increase their flight efficiency, by studying the aerodynamics of both flapping and gliding flight, for two groups of morpho butterflies (2): morpho’s that naturally use flap-gliding while flying, and a group of species that only flap continuously. Based on the results of this study, we aim to elucidate the evolutionary dynamics of butterfly flight, and we will develop flap-gliding modes for bio-inspired drones (3).
We are looking for a student with interest in the aerodynamics of animal flight and good knowledge of CFD simulation techniques. Using Marin’s ReFRESCO CFD software (, you will simulate the aerodynamics around the wings of different species of morpho butterflies, during both flapping and gliding flight. Based on the results, you will estimate flight efficiency metrics such as lift-to-drag ratio in flapping, gliding and flap-gliding flight, and compare the results among the different species.
The research consortium consists of the Netherlands Maritime Research Institute MARIN, Wageningen University, and the Paris Museum of Natural History.
For more information, please contact:
Jaap Windt, MARIN (
Florian Muijres, Wageningen University, (

  1. Muijres, F. T., Henningsson, P., Stuiver, M. & Hedenström, A. Aerodynamic flight performance in flap-gliding birds and bats. J. Theor. Biol. 306, 120–128 (2012).
  2. Chazot, N. et al. Morpho morphometrics: Shared ancestry and selection drive the evolution of wing size and shape in Morpho butterflies. Evolution 70, 181–194 (2016).
  3. Karásek, M., Muijres, F. T., Wagter, C. De, Remes, B. D. W. & Croon, G. C. H. E. de. A tailless aerial robotic flapper reveals that flies use torque coupling in rapid banked turns. Science 361, 1089-1094 (2018).

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