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Foot aids underwater movement: water snail


Lymnaea stagnalis / Rex / LicensePD - Public Domain

The foot of water snails helps them move upside down beneath the water's surface by creating small ripples in the mucus-water interface.

"A UC San Diego engineer has revealed a new mode of propulsion based on how water snails create ripples of slime to crawl upside down beneath the surface.

"Eric Lauga, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the Jacobs School of Engineering, recently published a paperthat explains how and why water snails can drag themselves across a fluid surface that they can't even grip.

"Based on Lauga's research, the secret is in the slime. The main finding of Lauga's research is that soft surfaces, such as the free surface of a pond or a lake, can be distorted by applying forces; these distortions can be exploited (by an animal, or in the lab) to generate propulsive forces and move. Some freshwater and marine snails crawl by 'hanging' from the water surface while secreting a trail of mucus. The snail's foot wrinkles into little rippling waves, which produces corresponding waves in the mucus layer that it secretes between the foot and the air. Parts of the mucus film get squeezed while other parts are stretched, creating a pressure that pushes the foot forward." (Jacobs School of Engineering News 2008)

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About the inspiring organism
Med_800pxwater_snail_rex_1 Gastropoda

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

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Small-scale aquatic applications requiring precision. Applications requiring surface tension.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Robotics

Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering
Dr. Eric Lauga
UCSD Jacobs School of Engineering
2008. Ripple effect: water snails offer new propulsion possibilities. Jacobs School of Engineering News [Internet],
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Lee S; Bush JWM; Hoisoi AE; Lauga E. 2008. Crawling beneath the free surface: water snail locomotion. Physics of Fluids. 20(8): 082106.
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over 6 years ago
Thanks to Duarte Miguel Prazeres for finding and uploading this photo.
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