In a discovery which could help could help in the development of tough, flexible armour or slender grasping robots, a team from Ghent University in Belgium have created a 3D computer model to reconstruct seahorse tail movement. The model allows them to analyse exactly how specific tissues and bones contribute to this grasping and varying degrees of bending.
It is already well-known that, despite being covered in armour, the tip of a seahorse’s tail remains flexible enough to delicately unwind itself after grasping an object. With the aid of the new model though, it has been shown that each sheet of tissue stretches across many vertebrae in the tail, and it is this support of several vertebrae without fixing them firmly together that might both allow flexibility and encourage rigidity. Surprisingly, the team says, tails of different species of seahorse show greater variation in anatomy than expected, despite having the same bones and muscles.
The work was presented today at the annual meeting of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Boston, Massachusetts.