Sticky Science

Not Exactly Rocket Science gecko

Screen shot from Ed Yong’s Not Exactly Rocket Science blog post about new science about the evolution
of sticky (or, rather, hairy?) feet.

During a couple of summers in the 1990s, I worked as a volunteer in an orphanage in México (Casa Hogar Mama Paulita, El Limon, Tamaulipas, México). I was amazed at the geckos crawling about the walls and ceilings at night, and since then I have wondered how they managed to stick to the surface.

This post by Ed Yong helps clear that up. Apparently, geckos evolved and re-evolved scaled, hairy feet, finished with “hundreds of even finer spatula-shaped split-ends” to help them hang onto things, as in this photo (left).

I’m not going to try to explain the science (by Tony Gamble and colleagues*) because Yong does that so well. I’m just going to point out a couple of things I think are neato:
1. You should have a look at the close-up photo in Yong’s report. Wow!

2. I love amber! It’s truly one of the most neato ways of preserving ancient info, as Yong writes, “By the Cretaceous period, when the dinosaur reign was closing, the geckos had already evolved their adhesive feet, as we know from a beautifully preserved fossil entombed in amber.”

*Reference: Gamble, T., Greenbaum, E., Jackman, T.R., Russell, A.P., and Bauer, A.M., 2012, Repeated Origin and Loss of Adhesive Toepads in Geckos: PLoS ONE,

About Kea Giles

Writer, photographer, editor, wife, friend, sister, dog mother.
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