Walking octopus inspires flexible robots reported BBC News, 7 June 2005. Two species of octopus have recently surprised scientists by walking on two “legs” on the sea floor. The behaviour in both cases was considered to be a means of avoiding predators, as it enables the animal to move quicker than it can crawl with eight arms and is believed to make it look less edible to a predator looking for high protein meal. One species, named Octopus marginatus tucks six of its arms around it body and uses the other two to propel itself along with alternating strides that make it look like a “walking coconut”. The other species, Octopus aculeatus has a similar two legged walk, but keeps its other arms extended so that it looks like a ball of seaweed bouncing along the sea floor.
The findings surprised biologists because octopuses do not have any rigid tissue in their arms. Other animals that walk have a rigid skeleton that acts like a set of levers pulled by muscles. The octopus walking movement depends on bands of muscles contracting against one another. Biomechanists are now studying the walking octopus’ arms to see if the pattern of muscle contraction used by the octopus arms could be used to make a flexible robot that could move through narrow, difficult spaces that a wheeled or rigid legged robot could not, e.g. collapsed buildings after an earthquake.
Editorial Comment: To copy the octopus walking movement the scientists will have to design and make a flexible material that can contract and relax when given the right stimulus, a computer to control the strength and sequence of contractions and a suitable power source that can be carried with the robot, i.e. it will take creative design and engineering. When they have achieved this, they will have irrefutable proof that the octopus was designed and built by a more clever Creator who thought of it first and didn’t need to copy anything else. (Ref. biomimicry, locomotion, robotics)