- Caterpillars crawl using a "two-body" system of locomotion never seen before.
- Caterpillar guts slide forward before other parts of the insect move.
- This form of locomotion is inspiring new designs for soft-bodied robots.
The gravity-defying crawl of caterpillars, which has the guts sliding forward before the rest of the caterpillar moves, represents a unique "two-body" system of locomotion that has never been reported before for any other insect or animal, according to a new study.
In addition to shedding light on how organisms can crawl in three dimensional structures, such as tubes and hollow branches, the finding -- reported in the latest issue of Current Biology -- is also inspiring new designs for soft-bodied robots.
Humans, however, could never truly mimic a caterpillar crawl with our own bodies -- our guts aren't loose enough.
"One way to think about it is to imagine you're crawling on your hands and feet," lead author Michael Simon told Discovery News. "Normally, as you move forward, all of your internal tissues move forward with you. It makes sense, as it's all packed into your rib cage. But imagine if, instead, as you began to bring your back leg forward, your liver suddenly began to slide upward toward your neck."