Courtesy of Dominique Adriaens, UGent
Hammering and squishing 3-D printed seahorse tail segments reveals what’s so great about being square.
Angled bones hitched together in a flexible string of squares create protective cages that are four times stronger than rounded ones, researchers report July 3 in Science. That’s the conclusion from squeezing 3-D printed seahorse tails, one made of square segments that had been scaled up and the other an engineer’s best estimate of a round equivalent.
Distant seahorse ancestors had armored tails that could have benefited from such square protection.
Modern seahorse tails have gone prehensile. So there’s now a grip bonus, says study coauthor Michael M. Porter, an engineer at Clemson University in South Carolina. Square segments press more surface area against a perch than round ones, giving squared tails better grip control.