An advance in understanding why the seahorse’s tail is made of square plates could inform the next generation of robotics and armor. In an engineering study that looked at the mechanics of how the fish’s tail works, researchers found the structure’s shape is optimized to resist crushing and to grasp while bending and twisting.
An international team modeled the stresses and strains of the tail bones with a computer and 3-D printed prototypes to subject them to engineering tests. They believe that the superior resistance to compression is an adaptation to protect the fragile spinal cord that runs the length of the tail.
One of their primary questions was why evolution would select for square prisms in the seahorse skeleton when other animals that do similar things with their tails have developed cylindrical ones.
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