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Data from: Shear-sensitive adhesion enables size-independent adhesive performance in stick insects


Labonte, David; Strücker, Marie-Yon; Birn-Jeffery, Aleksandra; Federle, Walter (2019), Data from: Shear-sensitive adhesion enables size-independent adhesive performance in stick insects, Dryad, Dataset,


The ability to climb with adhesive pads conveys significant advantages, and is hence widespread in the animal kingdom. The physics of adhesion predict that attachment is more challenging for large animals, whereas detachment is harder for small animals, due to the difference in surface-to-volume ratios. Here, we use stick insects to show that this problem is solved at both ends of the scale by linking adhesion to the applied shear force. Adhesive forces of individual insect pads, measured with perpendicular pull-offs, increased approximately in proportion to a linear pad dimension across instars. In sharp contrast, whole-body force measurements suggested area-scaling of adhesion. This discrepancy is explained by the presence of shear forces during whole-body measurements, as confirmed in experiments with pads sheared prior to detachment. When we applied shear forces proportional to either pad area or body weight, pad adhesion also scaled approximately with area or mass, respectively, providing a mechanism that can compensate for the size-related loss of adhesive performance predicted by isometry. We demonstrate that the adhesion-enhancing effect of shear forces is linked to pad sliding, which increased the maximum adhesive force per area sustainable by the pads. As shear forces in natural conditions are expected to scale with mass, sliding is more frequent and extensive in large animals, thus ensuring that large animals can attach safely, while small animals can still detach their pads effortlessly. Our results therefore help to explain how nature’s climbers maintain a dynamic attachment performance across seven orders of magnitude in body weight.

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