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Model calculates energetics of piercing fangs, claws and other biological weapons

Researchers have created a model that can calculate the energetics involved when one organism stabs another with its fangs, thorns, spines or other puncturing parts. Because the model can be applied to a variety of organisms, it will help scientists study and compare many types of biological puncturing tools, researchers said. It also will help engineers develop new systems to efficiently pierce materials or resist being pierced.

The new findings are reported in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

“The idea behind this was to come up with a quantitative framework for comparing a variety of biological puncture systems with each other,” said Philip Anderson, a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign professor of evolution, ecology and behavior who led the research with postdoctoral researcher Bingyang Zhang. “An initial question of this research was how do we even measure these different systems to make them comparable.”

“It’s a challenging problem to predict the properties of biological systems,” Zhang said.

Animals and plants deploy a variety of strategies for stabbing prey or defending themselves from other organisms, and even those that use similar strategies or tools alter those tools to meet their specific needs, the researchers said. Their targets also differ.

“In vipers, for example, some bite mammals, which means they must puncture through soft tissues encased in skin, while others target reptiles, which have scales, making them stiffer and harder to pierce,” said Anderson, who studies the mechanics and energetics of biological puncturing systems.

Read the full article at the Illinois News Bureau

Publication Date: 10/21/2022
Photo credits: L. Brian Stauffer
Editor: Diana Yates