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New angle on gecko research
Date:8/4/2009

Geckos are very adept at climbing through difficult terrain using an intricate adhesive system. Until now it has not been known when and how they switch on their unique system of traction.

Scientists at the University of Calgary and Clemson University in South Carolina have discovered that the geckos' amazing grip is triggered by gravity.

This latest development in gecko adhesive research will be published Wed., Aug. 5, at 00:001 BST, by Anthony Russell of the U of C and Tim Higham of Clemson in the online edition of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/

"Geckos use microscopic, hair-like filaments to attach to surfaces. Only at certain angles do they switch on their traction system, however," says Russell, a biological sciences professor at the U of C. "We are trying to understand this process, which will help in mimicking it for application to robotics."

Geckos have long been known for their remarkable abilities to move on smooth surfaces such as glass. This study adds a new angle to previous research: geckos must be on an incline in order to trigger the deployment of their adhesive system.

"Much has been learned in recent years about the mechanism by which clinging takes place, but little is known about how geckos determine when to use this ability," says Higham, a former U of C student and now an assistant professor of biological sciences at Clemson. "We show that perception of body orientation determines when the adhesive system is switched on."

The scientists discovered that the tipping point which turns on the gecko's adhesive system is 10 degrees. Three of the six geckos studied applied their adhesive system on a 10 degree slope. At 30 degrees all six applied the system. The three that applied the traction at 10 degrees slowed down, the three that didn't were much quicker.

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Contact: Leanne Yohemas
leanne.yohemas@ucalgary.ca
403-220-5144
University of Calgary
Source:Eurekalert

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