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

surfaces, illuminating their undersides in different ways so as to record images through digital cameras, subsequently analyzing this data by computer. "The ways to illuminate the body vary depending on what is being measured," stated Mara Vzquez, research fellow from the UC3M Fluid Mechanics Group where she has collaborated in experiments carried out in Spain and in the US. "For example", she explained further, "to measure the speed of the wave, we placed a light on the underneath part of the snail, while to measure the vertical deformation of the body we used a low power flat laser (so as not to harm the animal) projected at a given angle." Together, all of these measures have allowed the 3D reconstruction of the snail's underside during propulsion.

Very diverse applications

The most surprising thing about snail movement is summed up very well in a phrase from a biology professor from Stanford University, Mark W. Denny, written in the 1980's: "How can an animal with just one leg walk on glue?" And the mucus is highly adhesive, which offers some advantages such as walking on walls and moving on the ceiling. Furthermore, as anyone who has ever held a snail in their hand can testify, when snails move, they do not use force over specific points, as animals with legs do, but rather they distribute a relatively low force over a relatively large area. "What also happens," Professor Rodrguez pointed out, "is that it is difficult to move over glue without exerting quite a bit of force while dragging fluid along." Snails, after millions of years of evolution, have succeeded in being able to move on a highly adhesive surface, avoiding these inconveniences "which is without a doubt of interest and worthy of study", he added

This type of research can help in the design of biomimetic robots that carry out functions which conventional devices cannot do. Some Japanese researchers, for example, propose using the snail propulsion mechanism to move
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Contact: Ana Herrera
oic@uc3m.es
Carlos III University of Madrid
Source:Eurekalert  

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