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Sticky questions tackled in gecko research
Date:12/20/2007

Velcro, Superglue and Post-It Notes Three things that started out as obscure inventions but are now indispensable for everyday life. So what will the next idea to stick with modern society look like" The answer may lie in the tiny toes of a humble lizard, according to a University of Calgary biologist who is trying to figure out how geckos can cling to virtually any surface, including glass.

Unlike most creatures, geckos dont use sticky secretions to help them hang on, its all due to the structure of their amazing skin, says professor Anthony Russell, one of the worlds leading experts on the gecko family of lizards. Figuring out how they are able to run across ceilings and walk up windows is remarkably complex but it is getting a lot of attention because of the possible technology it could yield.

The latest development in gekkotan adhesive research is a paper by Russell and U of C graduate student Megan Johnson published in the current issue of the Canadian Journal of Zoology. Its one of the only studies to look at how a geckos unique toe pads enable it to move through its natural habitat.

Almost all of the research that has been done has looked at how geckos can walk on glass and other smooth surfaces, but of course their feet evolved for moving over very different surfaces, Russell said. By looking at how they climb up rocks and other natural surfaces we are hoping to gain an even better understanding of their adhesive system because coping with rough and unpredictable terrain poses quite different problems than does smooth and even ones. This calls for examining both the animals and the terrain they use at the microscopic level.

Unlike tree frogs and many insects that use some form glue-like fluid to get a grip, geckos are dry danglers. Their fan-shaped, highly flexible feet enable them to get traction on a wide range of surfaces while moving or standing, either up, down, or upside down. This gravity-defying power lies in the tens to
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Contact: Grady Semmens
gsemmens@ucalgary.ca
403-220-7722
University of Calgary
Source:Eurekalert

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