Thursday, 22 February 2018

There's a Reason Roaches Love Banging Their Heads Into Walls

By Mindy Weisberger, Senior Writer | February 14, 2018 03:57pm ET

If you were running at top speed, you would probably slow down or stop to avoid bashing into a looming obstacle. But scuttling cockroaches careen into walls headfirst, and this head-butting approach seems to work to the insects' advantage, new research shows.

Small roaches with robust exoskeletons use their heads "like an automobile bumper," scientists reported in a new study. When a scurrying roach's head hits a wall, its body rebounds upward at an angle, enabling the insect to scale the vertical surface more quickly than if it had applied the brakes.

The roaches' head-on approach to wall-climbing is so efficient that it inspired the researchers to design tiny robots that can ascend walls as the cockroaches do — by using their heads. [The 6 Strangest Robots Ever Created]

When animals navigate tricky terrain, an interplay between their senses and their brains helps them avoid obstacles and potentially fatal missteps. But the roaches' strategy suggests that some animals rely on their own body shapes to not only protect them from collisions, but also to channel that momentum into a successful escape maneuver, the study authors reported in the study, which was published online Feb. 13 in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

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