Geckos can traverse the body of a water surface using a slap movement to lift their bodies, creating an air bubble that generates additional force.
Scientists have discovered that these creatures use theirs size and strength to rise and move through water at impressive speeds, according to a new study.
Jasmine Nirody, a Rockefeller partner in physics and biology and her team have recorded and quantified the gecko's movements.
The study, published in Current Biology, outlines a combination of techniques used by creatures to accomplish this and other unique maneuvers.
The acrobatic lizards are agile on the ground that whizzes on the ground, able to climb up the vertical walls or push themselves into the air.
Geckos are able to run at almost 3 feet (1 m) per second on water and easily switch to speed on solid ground or climb up a vertical surface.
The researchers recorded and quantified the movement of animals after Adrian Jusufi, a colleague from Nirody at the University of California at Berkeley, identified a galloping gecko while on vacation in Singapore.
The researchers recorded and quantified the movement of the animals and found that the geckos use a slap movement to hoist their bodies over the water creating an air bubble, which generates an extra force and helps their body to stay above the surface of the water (image)
Mr. Jusufi recorded the small lizard as he ran through the trees in a flooded area and showed his colleagues when he returned home.
The researchers were surprised by an animal of that size – too large to depend only on surface tension, and too small to lift itself – would be capable of these movements.
The team has acquired some geckos and a tank and has proposed to reproduce the unlikely behavior of the animals in the laboratory.
They discovered that the geckos hold their heads high above the water and stretch their limbs to quickly slap the water and push forward.
"When they hit the water, they create an air bubble that generates extra force and helps their body stay above the surface," says Nirody.
"However, while the basilisks are able to support the entire weight of their body with a slap, the geckos can sustain only about a quarter of their weight using this technique," said the study.
"Realizing that geckos must use complementary strategies to stay afloat, the researchers considered the secret weapon exploited by animals on the other side of the spectrum: surface tension.
Geckos can climb on vertical walls and hang on ceilings. For research, the team has acquired some geckos and a tank and has proposed to reproduce the unlikely behavior of animals in the laboratory (image)
The acrobatic lizards are agile on the ground and able to climb up the vertical walls or push themselves into the air. Geckos are able to run at almost three feet (1 m) per second on water and easily switch to speed on solid ground or up a vertical surface (stock)
To consolidate this theory put the geckos in soapy water, which has a lower surface tension.
The geckos could no longer stand alone, suggesting that the surface tension was helping them stay above the water.
However, after performing the calculations, the researchers were unable to fully explain the impressive elevation of the gecko, leading them to discover another feature that contributes to the aquatic agility of the animal – their skin.
"The geckos have this extraordinary superhydrophobic skin that repels water and improves their ability to stay above the surface," says Nirody.
"So in addition to surface tension and slap, they have their own special makeup."
And the results may one day help robots to mimic animal behavior, according to Nirody.
"An intermediate-sized water robot would be ideal for finding flooded areas in the event of natural disasters," he said.
"So we're really fortunate to be able to learn from an animal that uses a combination of tactics to successfully navigate the surface of the water."
Scientists have already fabricated gecko robots that mimic the viscosity of gecko lizard feet to work in space and on Earth.
Integral biology professor Robert Full of the University of California, Berkeley, said: "They can run on a wall at one meter per second, they can glide, they can straighten in mid-air with a tail stroke and reverse quickly under a leaf that runs at full speed.
& # 39; And now they can run at one meter per second on the water. Nothing else can do it; the geckos are superheroes & # 39;
Prof Full's previous research has uncovered many of the unique maneuvers and strategies that geckos employ, including how their fingertips help rise smooth vertical surfaces and hang from the ceiling.
The first postdoctoral research author Jasmine Nirody at the University of Oxford was fascinated by the water behavior of geckos as a doctoral student at Berkeley after hearing about how the geckos ran through the water to escape predators.
HOW THE GECKO ROBOTS CAN BE USED IN THE SPACE
The "velcro spatial" sticky forceps based on the gecko adhesive feet have been developed by NASA to release dangerous spacecraft into orbit.
The NASA team behind the "clamp" says that technology could one day be used to create sticky-footed robots that climb around the outer space vehicle for repairs.
The device works by using a grid of sticky squares on the front and the arms with thin adhesive strips.
These strips fold and bend around an object such as the fingers, which means that it can grip both the curvature and the flat garbage.
Researchers based the new gripper design on naturally sticky geckos feet.
The lizards have small microscopic flaps on their feet that create an electrostatic charge when they touch a wall.
Like the feet of the lizards, the adhesive strips of the clamp have small flaps.
It is only sticky if the flaps are pushed in a specific direction, but making it stick requires only a slight push in the right direction.
This is a useful function for the types of activities that a spatial clamp will perform.