Microscopic hair make gecko’s feet sticky

New York: An integrative analysis of a type of gecko revealed that the microscopic hair, called setae, present underneath its toes makes the reptile’s feet sticky, experts said.

Gecko expert Timothy Higham, Associate Professor of Biology at the University of California – Riverside, led a team to study Gonatodes — a genus of dwarf geckos — and found a gecko, Gonatodes humeralis, in South America.

“The gecko adhesive apparatus, one of the most spectacular innovations displayed by vertebrates, has been intensively studied for the last 16 years and is of considerable interest to nanotechnologists and biomimeticists,” Higham was quoted as saying.

According to the results, published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, these hair allow this specie of gecko to cling to smooth surfaces such as leaves.

“It does this without all of the complex structure of the toes that typify the geckos that we are more familiar with. In the lab, this gecko can climb smooth vertical surfaces using its incipient adhesive system,” Higham said.

Higham explained that the setae interact with surfaces through attractive van der Waals forces providing an advantage in sectors of the habitat typified by smooth, low-friction, inclined surfaces.

This allows G. humeralis to avoid predators by occupying habitat that other members of the genus cannot.

While it can securely attach to vertical bamboo shoots, for example, other species in the Gonatodes genus generally scale rough tree trunks, rocks, fallen palm trees and move on the ground — areas where their predators abound, Higham added.