Why Do Animals Outrun Robots?

Over decades of research and development, engineers have been working on designing and building robots that can walk and run as well as animals and have built many devices capable of independent movement. Max Donelan of Simon Fraser University, Canada and colleagues from various USA universities carried out an extensive study of running robots comparing […]

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How Do Whales Talk Under Water? 

Baleen whales, such as humpback whales, are well known for communicating with “whale songs” but vocalising under water is not easy for an air-breathing mammal as air must be kept out of the respiratory passages when the animal is diving.  Try talking under water when you are holding your breath.  A group of scientists have […]

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Sound of Silent Flight

Owls are well known for their almost silent flight. Previous studies of their flight feathers have revealed they have fringes on their trailing edge that suppress noise, but the way the fringes actually suppressed sound was not known, so a research team at scientists and engineers at Center for Aerial Intelligent Vehicles at Chiba University, […]

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Fossil Robot

Fossil robot built by engineers at Carnegie Mellon University, who worked with palaeontologists to design and build a robot based on an extinct fossil creature known as a Pleurocystidid, which were a type of echinoderm. They had a flattened oval body, a long segmented stem at one end, and two smaller appendages, believed to be […]

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Penguin Swimming

How Penguins Turn Underwater

Penguins are very agile swimmers and able to turn within one body length.  Scientists from Tokyo Institute of Technology filmed Gentoo penguins swimming in an enclosure at Nagasaki Penguin Aquarium to see how they manoeuvre underwater.  The researchers analysed the movement of the penguin wings and body and worked out the hydrodynamic forces involved.  They […]

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Seahorse Dads Built for Birth

Seahorse and pipefish have an unusual method of reproduction – males carry developing babies in a brood pouch and give birth to live young.  Scientists at Sydney University have studied the process of how males gave birth.  They originally thought it would be like the female birth process in other vertebrates that give birth to […]

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Bat Flying

Botoxed Bats Billow in the Wind. 

Bat wings consists of a skin-covered fibrous membrane attached to the sides of their bodies and extending over their arms and elongated fingers.  The wings also contain long thin thread-like muscles embedded in the wing membrane.  Researchers at Brown University, USA, set out to see how these contribute to bat flight by getting bats to […]

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Rosy-Faced Lovebird

Parrots Defy “Forbidden Phenotype”

Because no vertebrate has an odd number of limbs, having three limbs is considered a “forbidden phenotype”, i.e. a body structure that cannot happen.  However, some animals can use other body parts as well as their limbs to help them move around.  Researchers at noted that some parrots use their beaks to help them climb […]

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Tiny insects flying

How Featherwing Beetles Fly

Featherwing beetles are the world’s smallest beetles – less than 0.4mm long.  They are named featherwing because their wings consist of bristles rather than a solid sheet of tissue as in other flying insects.  The individual bristles have outgrowths giving them a brushlike appearance and their wings are folded under a pair of wing cases, […]

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Woodpeckers Don’t Get Stuck

If you have ever banged a nail into wood and then tried to extract it you will know how hard it is to overcome the friction that holds the nail into the wood.  Woodpeckers are well known for banging their beaks into tree trunks and branches and extracting them at an incredibly rapid rate.  Scientists […]

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