Thu. Dec 7th, 2023
    The Fascinating Field of Paleobionics: Exploring Extinct Organisms through Soft Robotics

    Using fossil evidence, scientists have delved into the world of paleobionics – a new field of study that combines Softbotics, soft robotics with flexible electronics and materials, with ancient organisms. By mimicking and recreating extinct creatures, researchers hope to gain a deeper understanding of how they functioned and moved millions of years ago.

    Led by Professor Phil LeDuc from Carnegie Mellon University, the team focused on pleurocystitids, a marine organism that existed approximately 450 million years ago. Pleurocystitids were one of the first echinoderms capable of movement using a muscular stem. Through the use of computational simulations and soft robots, the researchers were able to engineer a soft robotic replica of pleurocystitids.

    Soft robotics, a branch of robotics that integrates elements of biology, engineering, and materials science, allows scientists to create robots with flexible appendages and mimic the biology and movement of extinct organisms. By studying how ancient creatures moved, scientists can gain insights into the evolutionary factors that drove their development.

    The team utilized fossil evidence to guide their design, incorporating 3D printed elements and polymers to recreate the flexible columnar structure of the pleurocystitids’ appendage. They discovered that these ancient organisms likely moved by sweeping their appendages wide and that increasing the length of their stem increased their speed without requiring additional energy.

    This breakthrough in paleobionics opens up new possibilities for understanding extinct organisms and the fascinating adaptations that drove their survival. While the study focused on pleurocystitids, the researchers hope to expand their exploration to other ancient animals, such as the first organisms that transitioned from sea to land.

    Through the integration of soft robotics and paleontology, the study paves the way for advancements in understanding the intricate mechanics of extinct organisms and their implications for modern-day robotics. It also highlights the collaborative nature of this research, with scientists working closely with paleontologists to bridge the gap between past and present.

    FAQ:

    Q: What is paleobionics?
    A: Paleobionics is a newly-emerging field of study that combines soft robotics with ancient organisms to gain insights into their biology and movement.

    Q: What are pleurocystitids?
    A: Pleurocystitids are marine organisms that existed nearly 450 million years ago, belonging to the echinoderm class, which includes modern star fish and sea urchins.

    Q: How are soft robots used in this study?
    A: Soft robots were employed to engineer a replica of the pleurocystitids using flexible electronics and materials, allowing researchers to mimic their movements and gain a better understanding of their biomechanics.

    Q: What did the study reveal about pleurocystitids?
    A: The study found that pleurocystitids likely moved by sweeping their appendages wide and that increasing the length of their stem increased their speed without requiring additional energy.

    Q: What are the potential future implications of this research?
    A: This breakthrough in paleobionics opens up possibilities for understanding extinct organisms and their adaptations, as well as informing advancements in modern-day robotics by leveraging the mechanics of ancient creatures.

    (Source: Carnegie Mellon University)