PhD Student

Department of Integrative Biology
University of California at Berkeley
3060 Valley Life Sciences Building
Berkeley, California 94720-3140

Lab phone: 510-643-5183
Fax: 510-643-6264

Email: dspringthorpe [at]


Animals are capable of remarkable multifunctionality. Many can run, climb, dig and manipulate the world around them- all with the same appendages. Because a multifunctional animal represents a combination of biomechanical traits, neural programming and learned behavior, this field will help us understand principles of integration and complex optimization. Findings will translate into new bio-inspired robots capable of transitioning smoothly between behaviors, moving rapidly through heterogeneous terrain and manipulating their environment to
facilitate mission success.  A comprehensive understanding of animal movement is also likely to translate into improved prosthetic devices and rehabilitative techniques.

I am currently investigating excavation, a previously un-described behavior, in ghost crabs (O. quadrata) using a variety of techniques that include x-ray imaging. When burrowing, these crabs demonstrate specialized postures, locomotion in confined spaces and goal-directed manipulation of the substrate – all with the same appendages that allow them to run faster than any other land invertebrate. The results of this investigation will help us understand animal multifunctionality, the control targets in constrained locomotion, manipulation, and the creation of new axes for locomotion. Furthermore, these results may be applied to developing a new generation of highly mobile robots, capable of locomotion through (and under) highly irregular terrain.


Springthorpe, D, Fernandez, MJ,  Hedrick, TL. “Neuromuscular control of free-flight yaw turns in the hawkmoth Manduca sexta.”  The Journal of Experimental Biology, 215(10), 1766-1774.

Fernandez, MJ, Springthorpe, D, Hedrick TL. “Neuromuscular and biomechanical compensation for wing asymmetry in insect hovering flight” The Journal of Experimental Biology, 215(20), 3631-3638.

Springthorpe, D, Gravish, N, Mazouchova, N, Goldman DI, Full, RJ. “Burrowing biomechanics of the ghost crab.” Society for Integrative
and Comparative Biology- National Meeting. San Francisco, CA. Jan 3-7, 2013.