Description: Certain species of darkling beetles that live in the Namib Desert are able to harvest water vapor using an ingenious series of tips and bumps on their wing scales. The water droplets start to form on the tips and then flow off the waxy bumps to be collected by the beetle. This structure allows the beetle to survive in an incredibly arid environment. It could also be used by engineers to develop a similar system for collecting water for humans. Students should use this and other plants and animal phenomenon to start designing their own solutions to human problems.
Description: In this phenomenon the crowns of certain trees do not touch. The physiological mechanism and cause of this phenomenon is not clearly understood. Since it appears in several species of trees that are not directly related it may be an example of convergent evolution. Students could speculate on why this occurs and in the upper levels may attempt to determine the mechanism of crown shyness.
Web Resource: Crown shyness - Wikipedia
Description: The skin of a polar bear is actually black. The black skin allows them to absorb more UV light to stay warm. The hair of the polar bear acts like a fiber optic cable directing the light to the surface of the skin. The clear hair reflects all wavelengths of light giving them a white appearance that blends with their surroundings.
Web Resources: Earth Rangers
Description: The foot of a gecko has folds upon folds upon folds. This increases the surface area between the foot of the gecko and the surface it is climbing on. Intermolecular forces between the two surfaces allows the gecko to scale vertical surfaces. This phenomenon can be used as an introduction to biomimicry or as an application of intermolecular forces.
Description: Biomimicry is an exciting field of engineering that uses solutions in nature to help design better human solutions. For example the beak of a kingfisher was used to design a quieter bullet train. When engineers are faced with challenging problems they are simply asking nature for a solution.