While most animal tails are cylindrical in cross-section, the seahorse has a unique, squared tail that not only provides the fish with a tough armor, but also gives it a strong grasp to hold on to things like plants or coral and "fish" for food that floats by its mouth. A paper in the most recent issue of the journal Science lays out some of the virtues of the appendage, which provides potential insight into engineering and robotics applications given its combination of strength and flexibility.
The team has been working on the research for a few years now, and we first took notice of the effort back in 2013.
"We found that this square architecture provides adequate dexterity and a tough resistance to predators, but also that it tends to snap naturally back into place once it's been twisted and deformed," said co-author Ross Hatton, an assistant engineering professor at Oregon State University. "This could be very useful for robotics applications that need to be strong, but also energy-efficient and able to bend and twist in tight spaces."