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Data from: Passively stuck: death does not affect gecko adhesion strength

Cite this dataset

Stewart, William J.; Higham, Timothy E. (2014). Data from: Passively stuck: death does not affect gecko adhesion strength [Dataset]. Dryad.


Many geckos use adhesive toe pads on the bottom of their digits to attach to surfaces with remarkable strength. Although gecko adhesion has been studied for hundreds of years, gaps exist in our understanding at the whole-animal level. It remains unclear whether the strength and maintenance of adhesion are determined by the animal or are passively intrinsic to the system. Here we show, for the first time, that strong adhesion is produced passively at the whole-animal level. Experiments on both live and recently euthanized tokay geckos (Gekko gecko) revealed that death does not affect the dynamic adhesive force or motion of a gecko foot when pulled along a vertical surface. Using a novel device that applied repeatable and steady-increasing pulling forces to the foot in shear, we found that the adhesive force was similarly high and variable when the animal was alive (mean ± s.d. = 5.4 ± 1.7 N) and within 30 min after death (5.4 ± 2.1 N). However, kinematic analyses showed that live geckos are able to control the degree of toe pad engagement and can rapidly stop strong adhesion by hyperextending the toes. This study offers the first assessment of whole-animal adhesive force under extremely controlled conditions. Our findings reveal that dead geckos maintain the ability to adhere with the same force as living animals, disproving that strong adhesion requires active control.

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