Evolution does little to explain amazing adaptations in animals and plants, but intelligent design is up to the task.

ANIMALS

Insect wing robustness:  Scientists at Trinity College Dublin set out to explain why insect wings don’t fracture.  The secret is in the veins, reported PhysOrg; tears in the paper-thin membranes are stopped at the veins before they can propagate.  Locusts endure longer marathon flights compared to most insects, but their wing membranes are actually quite delicate.  By performing stress tests on locust wings, the scientists found that the veins provide stop gaps to prevent accidents from becoming catastrophes, providing protection against crack spreading by 50% (see video clip on Science Magazine).  In a way, the veins act like watertight compartments on a ship, preventing a leak from sinking the whole vessel.

The wings achieve an optimum balance between competing design requirements.  “Nature has found a mechanically ‘optimal’ solution for the locust wings, with a high toughness and a low weight,” remarked David Taylor, a mechanical engineer at the college.  He sees scientific fruit from the team’s work in two ways.  “The researchers believe that the vein pattern found in insect wings thus might inspire the design of more durable and lightweight artificial ‘venous’ wings for micro-air-vehicles,” for one.  “And by “reversing” their analysis, one could possibly even use the vein spacing of fossil insects to study the wing properties of extinct insect species.”  The original paper by Taylor and Dirks, which did not mention evolution once but mentioned design five times, is openly accessible on PLoS ONE.

Tiny bubbles in the feet:  How does a beetle walk underwater?  Very carefully, with the aid of tiny bubbles trapped in the hairlike setae of their foot pads.  A short PhysOrg entry explains how Naoe Hosoda and team at the National Institute for Materials Science sees engineering possibilities in their discovery.  “Dr. Hosoda and her team clarified the mechanism which makes this possible and developed an artificial silicone polymer structure with underwater adhesion properties,” the article said.  ” This achievement is expected to be developed as an environment-friendly technology and is also considered applicable to clean underwater adhesion without using chemical substances that impact the environment.”….

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