Bio-mimicry is the utilisation of naturally occurring adaptations of animal and plant species and can improve human advances in many areas such as medicine, industry and architecture. Investigation into bio-mimicry can often offer more sustainable, affordable and simple solutions to human developments through imitating natural design.
Some examples of species adaptations in the marine environment that have been imitated for human benefits involve: echolocation and electroreception (through the study of dolphins, whales and shark species, crustacean defence from UV radiation, and cephalopod stealth and camouflage.
Shark Skin Bio-mimicry
A great example of bio-mimicry advancing human development from marine species is the use of anti-fouling properties found in the structure of the dermal denticles of shark skin. This amazingly evolved skin structure has shown to prevent the build-up of small marine invertebrates, algae and even bacteria on its surface. This discovery has now been artificially developed, mimicking shark skin to reduce bio-fouling on ship hulls by up to 80 %, increasing ship propulsion and fuel efficiency. Shark skin bio-mimicry has also been developed for use in hospitals as surface covers to reduce the spread of diseases through surface contact due to the antibacterial properties of shark skin.
Humpback Whale Bio-mimicry
Humpback whales are also a source efficiency in the field of marine bio-mimicry. It has been discovered that humpback whales have well evolved propulsion and manoeuvrability efficiency through body form and swimming mode. The leading edge of a humpback whale’s pectoral fins have small bumps called ‘tubercles’. These small bumps increase the amount of lift created in the water which allows for a higher fin angel without ‘stalling’ and losing speed. This in turn increases manoeuvrability and efficiency. This unusual specialisation has since been shown to increase the performance and energy production created in windmills by simply adding the ‘tubercles’ to the edge of the turbine wings. This mimicking technique increasing the catchment angle that the blades can operate at, increasing efficiency without the risk of stalling and losing power.
Many Examples of Bio Mimicry
Other natural phenomena such as superhydrophobicity and self-cleaning powers found in the water lily or ‘lotus leaf’ have been applied to self-cleaning windows, roofs, windscreens, paints for buildings, planes, ships, and waterproof clothing.
This amazing and ever developing field of discovery is a great example of how natural evolutionary adaptations can be applied to benefit human development in the future.