The model calculates the energy of piercing fangs, claws, and other biological weapons

A new model will help biologists calculate the energy involved when one organism stabs another with its drilling tools. In the photo: a viper skull. Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

The researchers created a model that can calculate the energy involved when one organism stabs another with its fangs, thorns, thorns or other piercing parts. Because the model can be applied to a variety of organisms, it will help scientists study and compare many types of biological drilling tools, the researchers said. It will also help engineers develop new systems to efficiently puncture materials or resist puncture.

The new findings are reported in Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

“The idea behind this was to come up with a quantitative framework to compare a variety of biological puncture systems with each other,” said Philip Anderson, professor of evolution, ecology and behavior at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who has led the research with a postdoctoral researcher Bingyang Zhang. “An initial question of this research was how we can also measure these different systems to make them comparable.”

“It is a challenging problem to predict the properties of biological systems,” Zhang said.

Animals and plants implement a variety of strategies to stab prey or defend against other organisms, and even those that use similar strategies or tools alter those tools to meet their specific needs, the researchers said. Their goals also differ.

“In vipers, for example, some bite mammals, which means they have to pierce the soft tissues enclosed in the skin, while others target reptiles, which have scales, which make them stiffer and harder to pierce,” he said. Anderson, who studies the mechanics and energy of biological puncture systems.

Other organisms, such as parasitoid wasps, can use their ovipositors to burrow through caterpillars’ skins, but they can also penetrate fruit or even wood, he said.

To develop a model that can be applied to a variety of systems, Zhang determined the key factors that need to be included in any energy calculation involved. These include changes in kinetic energy when the piercing tool is used, but also take into account the material properties of the target tissue.

This involves calculations describing how the initial kinetic energy pushes a drilling tool into a material, opening new surfaces in the material as the fracture propagates. It also takes into account the frictional resistance and elasticity of the target tissue.

The calculations were aimed at tapered drilling tools, which are common in biological systems, the researchers said.

  • The model calculates the energy of piercing fangs, claws, and other biological weapons

    Philip Anderson, left, and Bingyang Zhang developed and tested the accuracy of a mathematical model that can predict the energy of biological puncture systems. Credit: Fred Zwicky

  • The model calculates the energy of piercing fangs, claws, and other biological weapons

    Zhang tested the model using a bullet that pierces a gel-like material that mimics animal tissue. Credit: Fred Zwicky

  • The model calculates the energy of piercing fangs, claws, and other biological weapons

    A red-headed woodpecker uses its beak to pierce wood. Credit: Andy Reago and Chrissy McClarren, CC BY-SA 2.0

  • The model calculates the energy of piercing fangs, claws, and other biological weapons

    Some parasitoid wasps, such as those of the genus Ichneumon, can use their ovipositors to stab wood. Credit: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Anderson is implementing the new model to aid his studies of piercing organisms such as viper tusks, parsnip thorns, and parasitoid wasp ovipositors.

“If we know the morphology or shape of the damage created by a puncture tool, we can use this model to predict how much energy was spent during a puncture scenario,” Zhang said. “Or we can predict different aspects of the material’s properties, such as how it will break down, which will be useful in both engineering and biological applications.”


Researchers measure the stinging performance of viper’s fangs


More information:
Biological puncture modeling: a mathematical framework for determining energetics and scaling, Journal of the Royal Society Interface (2022). DOI: 10.1098 / rsif.2022.0559. rsif.royalsocietypublishing.or… .1098 / rsif.2022.0559

Provided by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Citation: The model calculates the energetics of piercing fangs, claws and other biological weapons (2022, October 19) recovered October 19, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-10-energetics-piercing-fangs-claws- biological.html

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