Faux Feces Species

Meet Macrocilix maia, the moth whose patterning mimics two flies feeding on bird poop. As Alex WIld notes at MYRMECOS, there are plenty of bugs that mimic poop itself, or flies, but nothing so elaborate as this scene.

Think it beats this incredible dead leaf moth, complete with depth perception illusion?

Finally, check out this video on moths vs. butterflies from The Brain Scoop.

VIDEO: Man-made leaf produces oxygen and could help us on future long-distance space journeys 

By Ben Hobson -

RCA graduate Julian Melchiorri says the synthetic biological leaf he developed, which absorbs water and carbon dioxide to produce oxygen just like a plant, could enable long-distance space travel.



Robotic Extrusions

3D printing method developed by Ji Shi uses robotic arm and biomimicry, where the output form is inspired by the structure of spider web for greater strength:

Most of today’s researches and applications of robotic fabrication are limited to replicating human labor and raising efficiency of manufacturing. However,  in the project of Robotic 6-Axis 3D Printing, we developed a fabrication strategy learning and emulating the law of nature (referring to Chinese philosophy “师法自然 ”). By studying the material and structure performance of 3D form in nature, we figured out a way to incorporate biomimetic fabrication strategy into 3D printing process. And by designing the special robotic-end effector (Tooling) and utilizing the great flexibility and accuracy of KUKA robotics, the biomimetic fabricating process has been fully realized.

More Here

9 Basic Principles of Biomimicry

  1. Nature runs on sunlight.
  2. Nature uses only the energy it needs.
  3. Nature fits form to function.
  4. Nature recycles everything.
  5. Nature rewards cooperation.
  6. Nature banks on diversity.
  7. Nature demands local expertise.
  8. Nature curbs excesses from within.
  9. Nature taps the power of limits. 

Frogfish: The Ocean’s Disguise Artists

Biomimicry is one of evolution’s most mind-blowing avenues of adaptation. It’s one thing to adapt thanks to maxing out the biological limits of speed, or selecting for the ever-longer, better-feeding necks of giraffes or the ability to use a new, untapped food source at the bottom of the ocean. But to become another life form? It shows us that natural selection is not only a powerful force, but also a delicate one, fine-tuning things like colors and patterns like only the finest human artists can.

Above are three examples of frogfish biomimicry, a family of fish that separately mimics algae, sponges and even sea urchins. They evolved these costumes as a way to avoid predators and become better predators themselves. Check out an in-depth post about frogfish biomimicry at Why Evolution is True (wait until you see them eat!), and if you want more here’s a whole website (Comic Sans warning!) dedicated to frogfish camo.

These guys even give Peeta Mellark a run for his money:

Seahorse’s Armor Gives Engineers Insight Into Robotics Designs

The tail of a seahorse can be compressed to about half its size before permanent damage occurs, engineers at the University of California, San Diego, have found. The tail’s exceptional flexibility is due to its structure, made up of bony, armored plates, which slide past each other.

Researchers are hoping to use a similar structure to create a flexible robotic arm equipped with muscles made out of polymer, which could be used in medical devices, underwater exploration and unmanned bomb detection and detonation. UC San Diego engineers, led by materials science professors Joanna McKittrick and Marc Meyers, detailed their findings in the March 2013 issue of the journal Acta Biomaterialia.

Read more


DNA From This Ugly Fish Is Being Used to Synthesize Bulletproof Slime

If you have ever seen a picture or a video of a hagfish, it’s probably been on some roundup of the ocean’s most horrifying creatures. But the DNA within that very creature, often known as a “slime eel,” just might be the key to creating sustainable, biodegradable plastic and lighter bulletproof clothing.

The hagfish has a skull but no vertebrae or spinal chord, so scientists aren’t totally sure whether to classify it as a vertebrate or not. It hasn’t really changed in roughly 300 million years, which makes it a “living fossil.” But this primitive sort of design is a boon for researchers who see potential in the hagfish’s trademark, and arguably grossest, trait.

You see, when a hagfish is threatened, it often slimes predators—and within that slime are tiny filaments that are 100 times thinner than a human hair, yet stronger than nylon and kevlar.

Its filaments have many of the same properties as spider silk, but, genetically, it’s much simpler. That made it that much easier for a synthetic biology startup in Ireland to bioengineer e. coli into making the filaments within the slime, no hagfish required.

“It’s 300 million years old and hasn’t really changed its design since—we think it stopped evolving, and that’s why we think it’s easier to get a bacteria to make it than it is to get a bacteria to make spider silk,” Russel Banta, founder of the company, called  Benthic Labs, told me. “I proposed trying to synthesize spider silk, but it’s just too complex to do in a cell right now and mass produce it.”

He’s not the first one who has had the idea—in a paper published earlier this year in Nature Communications, a researcher described how the slime is made within the hagfish, which was thought to be a breakthrough in potentially making its silk in the lab. But Banta is just having e. coli do it for him, instead.

“We found a company that synthesized the DNA for us from a genome sequence that was online, made some modifications to it so the bacteria could read it better, and put it into the e. coli,” Banta told me.

The bacteria are now synthesizing two separate parts of the threads made within the slime, while Banta and his team are looking at ways to put them together, either outside the cell or within the cell itself. He says he hopes to have a breakthrough within the next week or two. From there, it’s a matter of scaling it up and mass producing it.

“The gene is so simple that we can take it, put it in the bacteria 100 more times and just make the bacteria make more of it,” he said. “If you can make enough of it, the things you can use it for are really endless.”


KLIPPA: mountain-goat inspired prosthetic leg for rock climbers

Core77 has an excellent feature about a mountain-goat inspired prosthetic leg for rock climbers, developed and designed by Kai Lin.

Lin was fascinated by the exceptional climbing abilities from mountain goats, so he wondered if the same anatomy that allowed the goats to so swiftly and accurately scale the vertical surface could be applied to humans.

This was the beginning of KLIPPA—the name is Swedish for “cliff"—a prosthetic leg designed specifically for amputee rock climbers. With the seedling of the idea in mind, Lin dug deeper into the anatomy of mountain goats, learning that their hooves have small cupped surfaces that create suction, coupled with a hard outer shell that allows the goats to stabilize their bodies on even the steepest surfaces. Looking for design opportunities, the student stumbled upon the documentary High Ground, which tells the story of 11 veterans who heal mental and emotional trauma during a 20,000-foot Himalayan ascent. Lin also discovered that rock climbing was the first choice of physically demanding sports for veteran amputees looking to maintain an active lifestyle after returning from Afghanistan or Iraq. "I realized from the demographic of amputee patients that quite a few of them are wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and many of them suffer from physical and psychological trauma,” Lin says. “That just gave me more reason to design something meaningful—not only for day-to-day patients but for someone who might use my rock-climbing prosthetic legs to help with their recovery process.”

Be sure to check Lin’s portfolio. Alltough, the design is unfortunately still a concept in progress, but it’s neatly illustrated and offers a lot of thoughts about biomimicry and use cases.

[Kai Lin] [read more on core77] [all pictures by Kai Lin]


Biomimicry: Biologically Inspired Engineering

The word biomimicry comes from bios, meaning life, and mimesis, meaning to imitate—and that’s exactly what it is. The discipline’s main aim is to draw inspiration from nature’s best ideas and use them in design and technology. The premise is hinged on the fact that humankind has been inventing and creating for a mere blink in the lifespan of the Earth, and therefore we can learn a lot from plants, animals and ecosystems that have gradually and imaginatively adapted over four billion years of evolution, forced to become engineers just to survive. By studying nature, it’s possible that we can find solutions to many of the problems we’re currently dealing with. For example, we can study leaves in order to invent a better solar cell; use birds and bats to build more aerodynamic wings; mimic how butterfly wings generate colour to create more vibrant, energy-efficient screens; model swimsuits on sharkskin to reduce friction; learn how to put out fires using nature’s non-toxic flame retardants; and even apply the body’s self-healing properties to artificial materials like plastics. Over a painstaking amount of time, nature has found solutions that work on this Earth—and so through biomimicry, we can create sustainable human technologies that will help us survive and thrive.

(Image Credit: 1, 2)

Goniurellia tridens is the “come at me bro” of fruit flies, carrying two menacing ant shapes as a defensive display. 

If you missed it last night, check out these amazingly-disguised moths and butterflies that I saw on a tour of UF’s Lepidoptera collection last weekend. Just when I think I’ve found the coolest decoy coloring, I see something like this … what else ya got, nature?

(photo by Peter Roosenschoon, which is a very cool name)

Biophysicists create artificial cells that can change shape and move on their own

Using only a few ingredients, the biophysicist Prof. Andreas Bausch and his team at the Technische Universität München (TUM) have successfully implemented a minimalistic model of the cell that can change its shape and move on its own. They describe how they turned this goal into reality in the current edition of the academic journal Science, where their research is featured as cover story.

READ MORE ON TUM | Technische Universität München


Biomimicry Shoe by Marieka Ratsma and Kostika Spaho

The Biomimicry shoe is the result of a unique collaboration between Dutch fashion designer Marieka Ratsma and American architect Kostika Spaho. The idea for this shoe highlights the aesthetics and the shape of the bird skull, along with the characteristics of the lightweight and highly differentiated bone structure within the cranium. Such structure requires less support material, resulting in optimal efficiency, strength and elegance. Nature has been the main source of inspiration for the making and shaping of this shoe.

By looking at nature in a different way, she can open our eyes to ingenious systems and ways of life. Nature can inspire us towards inventive designs and productive, successful collaborations. Also for fashion, nature can be a great inspiration, especially for the use of materials and smarter constructions. Fast developing techniques such as 3D printing can help us by giving the possibility to approach nature’s shapes even more closely. Nature functions as no other in the use of sources, collaborations and bundling forces. The insight that nature gives us can be used for a new way of approaching design.”


The Nano Hummingbird: a bird-based flying machine

No thrusters, no propellers—just flapping wings. Those were the constraints DARPA (the research department of the U.S. military) gave a company called AeroVironment in order to create a tiny, bird-based flying machine. The manouverability of modern flying machines pales in comparison to even the everyday pigeon, because birds can swoop, dive, glide and alight by simply flapping their wings—current fixed-wing aircraft and rotary-wing helicopters can’t achieve that amount of dynamism. So engineers and designers at AeroVironment turned to biomimicry and drew inspiration from nature: the mechanics of bird flight. Using machine tools, microscopes, and a Swiss watchmaker’s lathe to create parts, the team custom-built a robotic aircraft whose wings change angle in order to generate thrust and change their angle of attack, and whose tail tilts and rotates just like bird’s tail feathers to help guide and control. Called the Nano Hummingbird, this tiny batter-powered aircraft can travel at speeds of over 17 kilometres per hour and resist gusts of wind of 8 kilometres per hour, but weighs less than an AA battery and can fit in the palm of your hand. It also has a communications system and a built-in camera, so it can be controlled at a distance using only a live video stream. Its possible future applications include not only military surveillance, but also search-and-rescue missions. However, the aircraft likely going to stay small for a while—their design has a long way to go before they’re able to land as smoothly as a bird and are ready for the runway.

(Image Credit: Popular Mechanics/Discover)


Glowing to Mimic Toxic Beetles

This South American cockroach species has a cool trick, using fluorescent bacteria to glow in this spooky pattern at night. It turns out that they are mimicking the glow of a neighboring toxic beetle, using their little bacterial helpers.

Of course when I saw it, I immediately thought of EVE. Where’s the Wall-E beetle?

(via Discover Magazine)