Variation in setal micromechanics and performance of two gecko species
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- Hagey, T.J., Puthoff, J.B., Holbrook, M. et al. Zoomorphology (2014) 133: 111. doi:10.1007/s00435-013-0207-2
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Biomechanical models of the gecko adhesive system typically focus on setal mechanics from a single gecko species, Gekko gecko. In this study, we compared the predictions from three mathematical models with experimental observations considering an additional gecko species Phelsuma grandis, to quantify interspecific variation in setal micromechanics. We also considered the accuracy of our three focal models: the frictional adhesion model, work of detachment model, and the effective modulus model. Lastly, we report a novel approach to quantify the angle of toe detachment using the Weibull distribution. Our results suggested the coupling of frictional and adhesive forces in isolated setal arrays, first observed in G. gecko is also present in P. grandis although P. grandis displayed a higher toe detachment angle, suggesting they produce more adhesion relative to friction than G. gecko. We also found the angle of toe detachment accurately predicts a species’ maximum performance limit when fit to a Weibull distribution. When considering the energy stored during setal attachment, we observed less work to remove P. grandis arrays when compared with G. gecko, suggesting P. grandis arrays may store less energy during attachment, a conclusion supported by our model estimates of stored elastic energy. Our predictions of the effective elastic modulus model suggested P. grandis arrays to have a lower modulus, Eeff, but our experimental assays did not show differences in moduli between the species. The considered mathematical models successfully estimated most of our experimentally measured performance values, validating our three focal models as template models of gecko adhesion (see Full and Koditschek in J Exp Biol 202(23):3325–3332, 1999), and suggesting common setal mechanics for our focal species and possibly for all fibular adhesives. Future anchored models, built upon the above templates, may more accurately predict performance by incorporating additional parameters, such as variation in setal length and diameter. Variation in adhesive performance may affect gecko locomotion and as a result, future ecological observations will help to determine how species with different performance capabilities use their habitat.