The research, available at Science magazine’s website, found that biologically inspired designs are providing great insight into the mechanical benefits seahorse anatomy has evolved to enjoy, as a result of their prehensile tails composed of armored plates in square prisms. The tail enable the seahorse to crush resistance more powerfully making it a hard prey. The engineer has always been fascinated by the unique geometry of the seahorse’s tail.
But Miriam Ashley-Ross of Wake Forest University, who was not involved in the study, pointed out that “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”, LA Times reports. It’s covered in strong, rigid plates, but despite all of this, it’s really flexible.
Researchers from Clemson University in collaboration with U.C. San Diego, Ghent University, and Oregon State University began their work by seeking to ascertain why seahorses’ tails are made up of square, as opposed to cylindrical (as found in most animals from rodents to monkeys), segments.
According to Hatton, the researchers discovered that the structure of the tails provide “adequate dexterity and a tough resistance to predators, at the same time, it tends to snap naturally back into place once it’s been twisted and deformed”. “That’s why we can learn a lot from animals that will inspire the next generation of robots”. And while they may be interesting to look at, scientists have determined that they may also have an intriguing evolutionary feature that we could use to make better robots.
During the study, the researchers printed out a 3D model of the seahorse’s tail, twisting and compressing the model.
It also created more contact points with a surface being gripped, allowing it to hold on more tightly.
He added that the square design felt better and basically fit together and performed in a more robust way where the round one did not retain its shape well and did not seem to fit altogether.
“Michael Porter, the lead investigator on this Seahorse-Robot study, noted that “[a]lmost all animal tails have circular or oval cross-sections-but not the seahorse’s.
3D-printed models that mimic a seahorse tail were designed not only for potential engineering applications but also to answer the biological question, why might tails organized into square prisms be better than cylinders? However, while extremely exciting, this technology is likely years away from becoming a reality. This means that technologies based on seahorses could also lead to better robotic performance in the operating room.