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Underwater Walking Octopuses

Published in the March 25, 2005 issue of Science is the first discovery of a soft-bodied animal to walk on two limbs.

Researchers at U.C. Berkeley discovered two types of small octopuses walking along the ocean floor. These octopuses used their back pair of legs to slowly retreat backwards away from predators. The remaining six arms were held up around the octopus to disguise it as either a coconut or a clump of floating algae, allowing the octopus to slowly back away camouflaged and facing the predator. Generally, octopuses crawl along the ocean floor through the pushing and pulling of all or most of their eight arms.

Robert Full, coauthor on the paper, believes that the octopuses are able to perform these sophisticated movements as reflexes through the autonomous nerve control available in each individual arm. He hopes that continued study on the underlying mechanics will influence the field of soft robotics.

DARPA has funded research in soft robotics in an effort to create soft-bodied biodegradable robots capable of dramatic shape shifting in order to navigate complex environments such as small cracks in buildings.


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