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A study reveals the keys to the locomotion of snails
Date:3/7/2011

The main aim of this study, carried out in collaboration with the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) and Stanford University (both in the US) is to characterize some aspects of gastropod (snails and slugs) locomotion to basically respond to one question: To what extent do they depend on the physical properties of their mucus to propel themselves forward? This question is fundamental when applying the studied mechanism to the construction of biomimetic robots. "The aim is for the robot to be able to propel itself in any fluid mucus without having to carry its own reserve of mucus along," explained one of the authors of the research study, Javier Rodrguez, Professor at the UC3M Department of Thermal and Fluids Engineering. "Bear in mind," he stated, "that snail mucus has a very particular behaviour because it is a specific type of fluid with complex physical characteristics called non-Newtonian fluid."

Until now, it was known that snails and slugs move by propagating their body in a series of muscular wave motions to advance from their tail to their head, but the importance of their mucus in this process was not known. The conclusion obtained by these scientists is that this fluid's properties are not essential for propulsion. "Without a doubt, it could have other uses, such as climbing walls, moving upside down, or preserving moisture in the body when on a dry surface, but if we want to construct a robot that emulates a snail, the latter could move over fluid mucus with ordinary properties" pointed out Professor Rodrguez, who has recently published an article on this matter, together with his colleagues from the North American universities, in the scientific review, Journal of Experimental Biology.

To carry out this study, the researchers have characterized the propagation of these muscular waves which occur along the body of gastropods. For this purpose, they place the snails and slugs so that they move on transparent
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Contact: Ana Herrera
oic@uc3m.es
Carlos III University of Madrid
Source:Eurekalert  

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