Sea horse’s square tail could inspire future armored robots

Jul 14, 2015

by Amina Khan

With an equine head and a prehensile tail, the sea horse seems as odd as it is adorable — but these strange little creatures are tougher than they look. Scientists studying the animal’s square-shaped tail have discovered that it’s better able to withstand attack than a smooth, round tail would be.

The findings, described in the journal Science, could help researchers build more flexible and durable robots in the future.

That tail, which is used for grasping objects, is made of about 36 squarish segments with a boxy cross section rather than the more common cylindrical form, such as an arm or a leg or a tree branch. That’s already weird, but it seems even stranger to see on a water-dwelling animal, where you would think that the smoothest, most streamlined shape would win out.

“When living organisms deviate from the norm, there’s usually a good biomechanical reason: a clue to some specific problem that needs to be solved,” Miriam Ashley-Ross of Wake Forest University in North Carolina, who was not involved in the paper, pointed out in a commentary.

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One comment on “Sea horse’s square tail could inspire future armored robots”

  • Obviously a flat sectioned clamp will be more efficient clamping a flat surface because more of the two surface areas come into contact.

    Does it take a degree in science to figure that out? Well, doubtless it helps.

    But not necessarily, because as usual nature’s already evolved a solution, and all we have to do is observe the result.

    Witness Sea Gulls and Spitfires, burdock seeds and Velcro.

    “…nature cannot be fooled.”.

    R P Feynman.

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