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Geckos, cockroaches, and robots dive off ledge, swing under to safety


Geckos and cockroaches share a unique locomotive behavior: both can run off a ledge at full speed and execute a pendulum-like motion to swing themselves fully around to the underside of the platform and continue running. The full report of this new behavior, and an engineered robot that can duplicate the acrobatic move, is reported in the June 6 edition of the open access journal PLoS ONE.

The work, led by Jean-Michel Mongeau of University of California, Berkeley, describes the identification and characterization of this new behavior, as well as the development of a robot that can also execute the same move. Senior investigator Robert Full notes, "Our serendipitous discovery not only helps explain why tiny animal pests we chase seem to disappear, but reveals a new behavior to escape predators in nature that inspired a robot's design. Once again, you never know where fundamental research will lead."

This discovery could be a step toward designing biologically inspired search-and-rescue robots for use in both natural and human-made disasters, the authors write.


Citation: Mongeau J-M, McRae B, Jusufi A, Birkmeyer P, Hoover AM, et al. (2012) Rapid Inversion: Running Animals and Robots Swing like a Pendulum under Ledges. PLoS ONE 7(6): e38003. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038003

Financial Disclosure: Research supported by an National Science Foundation (NSF) Frontiers in Integrative Biological Research Grant to RJF (EF-0425878), Micro Autonomous Systems and Technology Collaborative Technology Alliance Grant to RF, RJF and AMH (W911NF-08-2-0004), a NSF Graduate Research Fellowship to JMM, NSF Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems support to PB (EEC-0304730) and a Swiss NSF Fellowship to AJ supported this work. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interest Statement: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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