Cockroaches are sneaky little creatures. If you stumbled across a cupboard full of them (God forbid), they’d skitter away from the light, disappearing down cracks and out of sight before you knew what’d happened. Now, here’s another of their stealth tactics, recently discovered by a team of biologists:
Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have observed cockroaches flipping under ledges. In what looks like a kamikaze mission, the cockroaches dart towards the edge, before grabbing it with their claws and swinging underneath like a pendulum.
“To the naked eye, it wasn’t clear what was happening,” says Jean-Michel Mongeau, a graduate student involved in the study. “But when we filmed them with a high-speed camera and slowed it down, we were amazed to see that it was the cockroach’s hind legs grabbing the surface that allowed it to swing around under the ledge.”
After observing this behavior in cockroaches, and geckos too, the biologists teamed up with UC Berkeley robotics experts to recreate the flipping mechanism with a six-legged robot. Their device was able to simulate the ninja-like behaviour – a finding that could lead to agile robots capable of navigating complex surfaces.
American cockroach and robot on the ledge with a gecko venturing underneath (credit Jean-Michel Mongeau, Ardian Jusufi and Pauline Jennings. Courtesy of Poly-PEDAL Lab UC Berkeley)