Wed. Nov 29th, 2023
    Unraveling the Biomechanical History: Utilizing Soft Robotics to Study Extinct Organisms

    Image Credit: Carnegie Mellon University

    The history of Earth spans billions of years, with countless species coming and going long before humans ever set foot on the planet. To gain a deeper understanding of the animal kingdom’s evolution and biomechanics, researchers from Carnegie Mellon University’s Department of Mechanical Engineering, in collaboration with paleontologists from Spain and Poland, are pioneering a groundbreaking field called Paleobionics.

    This emerging discipline focuses on utilizing the principles of Soft Robotics, which incorporates flexible electronics and soft materials, to study extinct organisms and unravel the biomechanical drivers of evolution.

    By employing Soft Robotics, the team at Carnegie Mellon University has recreated the movement of an ancient marine creature known as pleurocystitid. Belonging to the echinoderm class, which includes contemporary creatures like starfish and sea urchins, pleurocystitids were among the earliest echinoderms with the ability to move through a muscular stem.

    Using fossil data as a blueprint, the researchers combined 3D printed components and polymers to recreate the flexible, columnar structure of the creature’s mobile appendage. Through their experiments, they discovered that pleurocystitids likely propelled themselves forward by elongating their stem and that broad, sweeping movements were the most efficient mode of locomotion.

    This innovative approach not only allows scientists to study extinct organisms in ways that were previously impossible but also provides insights into designing more efficient and adaptable robotic systems. The researchers believe that by studying the evolution of locomotion in ancient species, we can discover new strategies and principles that can be applied to modern robotics.


    1. What is Paleobionics?
    2. Paleobionics is a novel field that combines the principles of Soft Robotics with the study of extinct organisms to unravel the biomechanical drivers of evolution and gain insights into the animal kingdom’s history.

    3. What is Soft Robotics?
    4. Soft Robotics is a domain of robotics that incorporates flexible electronics and soft materials to create more adaptable and lifelike robotic systems.

    5. What is the significance of studying extinct organisms?
    6. Studying extinct organisms provides valuable insights into the evolution, biomechanics, and adaptive strategies of different species. These insights can be applied to various fields, including robotics and bio-inspired design.

    Source: [Carnegie Mellon University](