Purdue Science Week's final event goes wild

10-23-2013


The Purdue Science Week came to a slimy, feathery and quill-full conclusion Oct. 18.

After a week of lectures, documentary screenings and trivia nights, Science Week got a visit from some of the stars of the Columbian Park Zoo.

More than 30 students packed a room in the Psychological Sciences Building for a presentation on bio mimicry – where science has been inspired by animals like the gecko, tree frog, cockroach, parrot and porcupine.

Handled by Columbian Park Zoo education assistant Paige Rudasics, animals from the zoo that made a cameo on Purdue campus included Madagascar hissing cockroaches, a blue and green macaw named Calvin, Goblin the White’s tree frog, a light brown gecko and Polk the porcupine, the most popular creature of the afternoon.

While allowing the students to hold or touch each critter, Rudasics explained that the cockroach’s 16-chamber heart led to superior blood pressure, inspiring scientists to develop a five-chamber artificial heart for patients. That’s one chamber more than the natural human heart.

The geckos’ feet were an inspiration for dry adhesive development. Maybe someday people will be able to climb walls like this lizard – or Spider-Man.

Rudasics revealed that the porcupine’s quill was the inspiration for syringe needles. The less painful way the quill goes into the skin was mimicked. The expansion and excruciating microscopic barbs on the porcupine’s quill were left off of the needle’s design, thankfully.

The macaw’s blue feathers and the White’s tree frog’s slippery skin were topics of other scientific pursuits. The frog’s skin secretions are known to be antibacterial and have been found to reduce HIV transmission.

“Also, various other medications have been based off of compounds found in their skin secretions, such as medications for high blood pressure,” Rudasics stated. “Bio mimicry in regards to the blue and gold macaw stems from the blue coloration in their feathers, which is not a result of blue pigment, but nanostructures that reflect light in the blue wavelength.”

Purdue students and tree frog

Purdue students say "hello" to a White's tree frog, whose antibacterial and antiviral skin secretion is being studied by science.

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