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October 27, 2022

Piercing Fang Energetics

What forces allow claws, fangs, spines and stingers to break into tissue and scale? Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have created a model to compare puncture energetics.

Credit: National Science Foundation

Piercing Fang Energetics

Whether fangs, stingers, spines, or claws, creatures have developed many ways to tear into their prey. But not all tissues are made the same, skins and scales require different forces to break.

We'll explore how different puncturing techniques can help in the next evolution of engineering and biological applications, in the U.S. National Science Foundation's "Discovery Files."

Anyone who has had a bee sting or pricked their finger on a thorn is familiar with biological puncture. Plants and animals have evolved a wide variety of strategies for stabbing prey or defending themselves from others, even those that use similar strategies or tools adapted to meet their specific needs.

Some bite mammals, puncturing soft tissues encased in skin, others target reptiles, which have scales, a much stiffer surface that is harder to pierce. Adapting even further would be the woodpecker, able to bore holes in trees!

At the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, NSF-supported researchers have created a model to compare the energy involved in punctures across a variety of organisms, including the energy required to create a hole, make the hole wider, and overcome friction during penetration.

The model represents a framework for exploring biological puncture systems. A greater understanding of which can show how fundamental physics influence the evolution of puncture systems, as well as the ability to predict how a material will fracture, which can be useful in both engineering and biological applications.

To hear more science and engineering news, including the researchers making it, subscribe to "NSF's Discovery Files" podcast.

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