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  • Strategy

Bristles facilitate movement: earthworms


Earthworm bristles / Mnolf / LicenseGFDL - Gnu Free Document License

Short rearward-pointing bristles on the body of an earthworm make rectilinear motion possible by grabbing the ground as the worm slides.

"The basic worm trick consists of stretching and squeezing alternate parts of a long, cylindrical trunk, moving each region of stretch or squeeze rearward, as in figure 24.7a. Despite the rearward progression, the scheme can't do much without one more component. Thus, a worm on a smooth and lubricated surface makes negligible progress--we're not looking at an analog of anguilliform (eel-like) swimming. The trunk needs some device so it slides more easily forward than rearward. For earthworms, setae, short rearward-pointing bristles, provide that crucial asymmetry." (Vogel 2003:488)
About the inspiring organism

Learn more at
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Boring machinery or tools that mimic the functionality of setae, agricultural tools that minimize soil disturbance (and thus erosion) during planting.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Engineering, hand tools, agriculture

Vogel S. 2003. Comparative Biomechanics: Life's Physical World. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 580 p.
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