You never thought these little aquatic creatures could be anything but cute, did you? Well, think again, as recent studies show researchers in the field of robotics are looking into the possibility of making robots with sea-horse tail shaped arms.
That’s right, the tail of the sea-horse, as the scientists found, proves incredibly useful as a model for creating robotic limbs, as it is an unusual evolutionary trait. Miriam Ashley-Ross from Wake Forest University points out in a commentary relating to the find that nature has a way of not deviating from normality without a specific reason, a biochemical purpose.
Such is the case with the sea-horse. The tail of the little animal is composed of thirty-six tightly interlocked square-ish shapes that turn its cross section into more of a box, rather than a cylinder, what one would expect to find. The oddity is further advanced by the fact that it is a sea dwelling creature, so the pointy tail would not do much in the way of movement, as would an elongated smooth shape.
Yet, there is a very good reason for why this tail is the way it is. And the scientists studying it have come to the same conclusion. Besides giving the sea-horse the ability to grip objects more tightly, there is something inside the tail that needs a bit of extra protection. I’m taking about the horse’s internal organs, and most importantly, its vertebral column. Those two need the toughest armor they can get, one would gather, and the sea-horse has just that.
The scientists behind the study have tested why the tail is shaped thusly by replicating it on a larger scale to see the mechanism behind its functioning. Michael Porter, the lead author, became interested in this when he was studying the material that made up the bones of the animal. He and his team also printed a version of the tail with round segments instead of square ones.
When the scientists tested both tail replicas, they found the square version much more resilient to breaking, much more flexible, and with the ability to revert back after being smashed, hit, or twisted. The cylinder version did not revert back and its interlocking circles kept getting stuck in each-other.
The conclusion would be that a system made up around the same principle would greatly benefit future robotic creations. Through these results, nature again shows it has long had answers to current problems we face in science.
Image source: thedailybeast.com