tail

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The dance of the disembodied gecko tail

When danger threatens many lizards can detach their tails, leaving them behind as decoys in the hope that the predator will attack it rather than the lizard itself. But the tail doesn’t just lie there as bait. For half an hour after they’ve been severed, the disembodied tails perform a complex dance, flipping, lunging and…

When sportsmen use rackets or bats, their best bet is to hit a ball on the “sweet spot”, the point where various forces balance out to deliver powerful blows with only very small forces on the wielder’s wrist. Engineers have the right tools and models to work out where this spot lies on their instruments.…

It seems like an uneven match. In one corner, the unassuming California ground squirrel (Spermophilus beechyi), 30cm in length. In the other, the northern Pacific rattlesnake (Crotalus oreganos), more than twice the length of the squirrel, and armed with hinged fangs that pack a lethal venom. But thanks to a cunning adaptation, the squirrel often…

Geckos are nature’s champion climbers. With remarkable ease, they can scamper across ceilings and up smooth vertical surfaces, and they do so at speed. A vertically running gecko can cover 15 times the length of its body in a single second. So far, scientists have focused their attention on the gecko’s amazingly adhesive feet but…