The ways in which scientists are inspired by the amazing things animals can do is simply incredible. Scientists get some of their best ideas from nature, as some new inventions show. Inventions that use things found in nature as inspiration are called biomimetics.

Mollusks are the inspiration for a new project from researchers at MIT. A group of engineers is exploring ways to reproduce an adhesive, waterproof protein made by mussels, barnacles and other shellfish to attach themselves to surfaces underwater. The new protein could eventually be used to repair ships or heal wounds on humans, the researchers said.

The new material is made from combining the protein mussels used to attach themselves to things with a protein found in biofilms used by bacteria to stick to a surface. The researchers made bacteria produce a combination of these two proteins, which are stickier and stronger together than either one of them are alone. The team used new technological advancements that allow researchers to use bacteria to engineer proteins to good effect.

Other scientists have previously engineered individual mussel foot proteins, but Lu said that in order to have the same efficacy as the proteins used by real mussels, it is not enough to use only one of the proteins. The MIT team reproduced two individual mussel foot proteins for added strength, and combined them with protein from bacteria called "curli fibers."

The team behind the mollusk-inspired adhesive is currently working to see if it can make the material stronger by adding more individual mollusk foot proteins.

Another recent invention inspired by sea life is a piece of technology that reproduces complex camouflage tactics taken from octopuses in wearable technology that could one day help humans fade into the background. The team was already able to create a sheet of nine cells that quickly change color from white to black when a light shines on them.

Even older technologies use nature as inspiration. The invention of Velcro, patented in 1952, was inspired by burrs, the little prickly seeds that are covered in tiny hooks which easily attach to fur. Burrs traveled a long way from the floor of the forest to the tops of our shoes. Velcro is one of the most financially successful examples of biomimicry according to biologist Janine Benyus.

It makes sense for scientists to turn to nature for inspiration. Animals often already do some of the things engineers want to achieve and with hundreds of years of evolution behind them. Another example of biomimetics is drones inspired by flying animals, like bats, birds or insects.

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