Extreme positive allometry of animal adhesive pads and the size limits of adhesion-based climbing

Labonte, David, Clemente, Christofer J., Dittrich, Alex, Kuo, Chi-Yun, Crosby, Alfred J., Irschick, Duncan J. and Federle, Walter (2016) Extreme positive allometry of animal adhesive pads and the size limits of adhesion-based climbing. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 113 (5). pp. 1297-1302.

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1519459113

Abstract

Organismal functions are size-dependent whenever body surfaces supply body volumes. Larger organisms can develop strongly folded internal surfaces for enhanced diffusion, but in many cases areas cannot be folded so that their enlargement is constrained by anatomy, presenting a problem for larger animals. Here, we study the allometry of adhesive pad area in 225 climbing animal species, covering more than seven orders of magnitude in weight. Across all taxa, adhesive pad area showed extreme positive allometry and scaled with weight, implying a 200-fold increase of relative pad area from mites to geckos. However, allometric scaling coefficients for pad area systematically decreased with taxonomic level and were close to isometry when evolutionary history was accounted for, indicating that the substantial anatomical changes required to achieve this increase in relative pad area are limited by phylogenetic constraints. Using a comparative phylogenetic approach, we found that the departure from isometry is almost exclusively caused by large differences in size-corrected pad area between arthropods and vertebrates. To mitigate the expected decrease of weight-specific adhesion within closely related taxa where pad area scaled close to isometry, data for several taxa suggest that the pads’ adhesive strength increased for larger animals. The combination of adjustments in relative pad area for distantly related taxa and changes in adhesive strength for closely related groups helps explain how climbing with adhesive pads has evolved in animals varying over seven orders of magnitude in body weight. Our results illustrate the size limits of adhesion-based climbing, with profound implications for large-scale bio-inspired adhesives.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Publisher: National Academy of Sciences
ISSN: 1091-6490
Departments: Forestry and Conservation
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2019 13:05
Last Modified: 11 Oct 2019 13:05
URI: http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/5152

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