Why Geckos Stick Like Glue, New Study

Geckos. Wherever you go, there they are, pretty much all over the world. So what’s the story on these geckos? And how do they hang on so easily, even in a hot, humid climate … and even on the walls of your shower?

A study published yesterday by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences might just have an answer. A surprisingly large team of researchers at the University of Akron has been investigating all things gecko, thanks to funding by the National Science Foundation and the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Apparently, if we can figure out how geckos do their thing, we can have better sticky tape and maybe tires that get a more secure grip.

And you thought geckos were only good for a pretty face to sell insurance.

Now, a word of warning is always mandatory with any study published on April Fools’ Day. And I’ll admit that the research in question doesn’t sound too too intense. According to their press release, it seems that the team “studied the clinging power of six geckos, which they outfitted with harnesses and tugged upon gently as the lizards clung to surfaces in wet and dry conditions.”

Well, something’s being tugged, all right, but I think it’s my leg.

In any event, whether or not any miniature gecko harnesses actually existed, I think we can agree that it’s impressive that geckos can stick like glue to most surfaces, wet or dry, or even underwater. In a previous report, the UA team said that they’re engaged in ongoing research to figure it out so that they can develop synthetic materials that hold their own even when they’re soaked, something that would be especially useful for bandages and surgical materials used inside the human body.

And, in fact, they’ve already developed a gecko-inspired dry adhesive.

However, this member of the public has a modest suggestion for the researchers. The next time you publish research that involves geckos wearing harnesses, maybe don’t publish on April 1.

a close-up of gecko's sticky foot

[wild Madagascar day gecko photos by Elaine Radford]