The Story of the Tell-Tale Tail

Biologist Robert Full thought he was just teaching a bunch of engineers how gecko feet work so they could build a wall-climbing robot. Then the engineers reported back something strange. Their prototype didn’t work unless they gave it a tail. Then they asked Full a pretty straightforward question: what are gecko tails for, anyway? To Full’s surprise, he wasn’t quite sure, so he set out to investigate gecko tails, and discovered an entire universe of surprises, which he describes in this TED talk. [%comments]


First, that video doesn't seem to say anything about tails, so no help there.

Second, I believe I've seen this scientist before, and the main problem I remember was the pseudo-gecko material did not stick unless you placed it on the surface and then pulled backwards slightly. No mention of tails in the report I watched on tv sometime ago.

The referenced video shows pseudo-gecko foot tape being tested. No tail there, but it seems to be working fine.



Did you click on the link at the very bottom marked as "this TED talk" or did you click the top one, which was the initial talk about how Gecko feet work?

The last one is roughly 10-11 minute long, and he spend a substantial portion of it (everything past about 4:30) talking specifically about the Gecko's tail and what it adds. Yes, you have to peel back the material to imitate the Gecko's foot--they show that in the clip too--but the tail gives it stability against slipping, the ability to right itself when falling, and the ability to pull off a controlled and directed glide while falling. As an engineer (former physicist) I personally think that it's actually quite amazing... click the bottom link, if you haven't yet.

Derek Young

Fascinating. Seeing it flap it's arms and pump its tail like a dolphin in the wind tunnel experiment was simply amazing.