Geckos’ tight grip prompted by feel of gravity: study

The unique grip of geckos’ toes that lets them effortlessly scale walls and hang upside down is activated by the feel of gravity tugging on their bodies, not the kind of surface they’re scampering along, according to new research.

Dr. Anthony Russell

CALGARY — The unique grip of geckos’ toes that lets them effortlessly scale walls and hang upside down is activated by the feel of gravity tugging on their bodies, not the kind of surface they’re scampering along, according to new research.

University of Calgary professor Anthony Russell stuck the animals in a kind of boxed-in gecko runway to watch how they moved along different surfaces.

Put on a slick surface of Plexiglas, the creatures slipped and slid their way along when the course was completely flat.

When it was raised to a 10 degree angle, about half of those geckos tested engaged microscopic hair-like branches that extend from their toes, creating an interaction with the surface that let them get a tighter grip.

By the time the runway was tilted to 30 degrees, all the geckos were running with their grips on go.

The angle at which the grips started working was the same whether the geckos were scooting along a smooth surface or an easily navigated sandpaper base, showing that it’s the angle that makes them engage rather than the type of surface, Russell said.

“They are pre-programmed to use it,” he said. “So it’s one of these systems where the animal is registering its body orientation and that is telling it, OK, there’s a more difficult set of circumstances here, employ your insurance policy.”

The signals are delivered to the geckos by their central nervous system, the thing that enables all creatures to feel whether they’re accelerating or decelerating and which way is down, said Russell.

It doesn’t make sense to have the grips working all the time since when they’re engaged they create friction that slows the animals down, he said.

These grippy toes work well for geckos in the wild, since they can dart up and down rocks in the deserts where many of them live, ducking inside crevices in an instant to evade predators. They’re also useful among trees — geckos can scamper across leaf surfaces, too slippery for most predators, to indulge in a virtual buffet of insect prey.

Russell’s research will be published in today’s online edition of the biological research journal of the UK’s national Academy of Science.

Just Posted

Red Deer group looking to keep roads safe for cyclists

A Red Deer cycling group is concerned about road safety after multiple… Continue reading

Smoke and pets do not mix

Take care of your pets during the smoky weather

Former Red Deer lawyer sentenced

Charges included possession of stolen property

WATCH: Raising money for kids at the Gord Bamford Charity Golf Classic

Former NHL players, Olympians, pro rodeo circuit members and musicians teed off… Continue reading

Canadian soccer captain Christine Sinclair continues to lead fight against MS

TORONTO — Christine Sinclair continues to have an impact on and off… Continue reading

In Franklin’s anthems, women heard an empowering message

NEW YORK — Aretha Franklin never saw herself as a feminist heroine.… Continue reading

Happy birthday Boler: 100s of cute campers in Winnipeg for anniversary gathering

WINNIPEG — Angela Durand sits outside her camper which is decorated to… Continue reading

Merkel, Putin share a headache: Donald Trump

FRANKFURT — German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin will… Continue reading

Tim Hortons says its China expansion will include menu with congee, matcha

TORONTO — The president of Tim Hortons says a plan to conquer… Continue reading

Trump suggests Canada has been sidelined from latest NAFTA negotiations

OTTAWA — U.S. President Donald Trump is suggesting Canada has deliberately been… Continue reading

Photographer files complaint with police after alleged assault while on the job

TORONTO — A Toronto newspaper photographer said he opted to file a… Continue reading

Annual inflation rate jumped to 3.0% in July, highest reading since 2011

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says higher gasoline prices helped push the country’s… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month