The research centers on the curious shape of seahorse tails and was led by Clemson Univ.'s Michael M. Porter, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering.
Seahorse tails are organized into square prisms surrounded by bony plates that are connected by joints. Many other creatures, ranging from New World monkeys to rodents, have cylindrical tails.
Researchers wanted to know whether the square-prism shape gives seahorse tails a functional advantage.
To find out, the team created a 3D-printed model that mimicked the square prism of a seahorse tail and a hypothetical version that was cylindrical. Then researchers whacked the models with a rubber mallet and twisted and bent them.