Seahorses are pretty weird – while most of the animal kingdom has cylindrical tails, seahorse tails have a square-prism shape.
Seahorses might not seem the ideal animal to inspire tough new robots, but torture-testing of 3D tail models suggests the whimsical creatures may be hardier than we think.
The study researchers have explained that the tail used to hold things is made of around 36 square segments having cross sections in it. It was quite odd to see this especially on a water-dwelling animal.
Distant seahorse ancestors had armored tails that could have benefited from such square protection.
A new research has suggested that cylindrical tail of seahorse, which is organized into square prisms and surrounded by bony plates connected by joints, can inspire the future technological breakthrough in robotics. This helps the seahorse hide, easily bide its time while food floats to it, and it provides excellent crushing resistance – making the animal hard for predators to eat.
The findings related to the specific features of the seahorse’s tail will be translated into robotic technology and will help in building medical devices that one day will own the capacity of moving around organs and bones with the strength needed to accomplish a surgical operation.
Biological systems, Hatton said, can combine both control and flexibility, and researchers gravitated to the seahorse simply because it was so unusual.
Miriam Ashley-Ross of Wake Forest University, who was not involved in the paper, commented: “In situations where the sharp corners are not a drawback, a flexible armor based on the seahorse tail may prove advantageous, bending smoothly while still affording protection to structures within – proving that it’s not always a bad thing to be ‘square, ‘ “.
The lessons learned from studying the seahorse tail could aid the development of more energy-efficient robots, experts believe. That would make it useful for search and rescue or industrial applications, yet still flexible enough to use in surgery. The researchers then compressed those plates and noticed that the square plates could easily squeeze inward while maintaining their shape. They can then snap back to their normal position with little use of energy.
The scientists found that the square prototype was stiffer, stronger and more resilient than the circular one when crushed.
Collaborators on this study included corresponding author Michael Porter from Clemson University; Ghent University in Belgium; and the University of California at San Diego. “We wondered why”, said Dr Porter, whose research was published in the journal Science.