Four years ago, we heard how scientists had gained a new understanding of the Northern clingfish’s ability to … well, to cling to things. Utilizing that knowledge, they’ve now developed a suction cup that adheres to rough surfaces, outperforming the actual fish itself.
The clingfish has a disc-shaped combination of two fins on its underside, which it uses to verystrongly adhere to underwater surfaces such as rocks.
Led by Dr. Petra Ditsche and Prof. Adam Summers, researchers at the University of Washington discovered that the secret lies in the rim of that disc, which is covered in layers of tiny hair-like structures of varying sizes. This arrangement creates friction along the rim, allowing it to adhere to rough, wet or slimy surfaces. Additionally, the flexibility and elasticity of the disc let it conform to uneven surfaces, helping it to maintain contact.
As a result, the Northern clingfish can support up to 230 times its own body weight when lifted, yet also release its hold and swim away whenever it wants. Such tenacity would be desirable in applications such as whale-tracking tags, ship-hull-cleaning robots, surgical devices, or even just shower caddies.