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Science Behind Perfect Somersault by Tiny Freshwater Animal 'Hydra' Decoded by Pune Student

Representative image. Screengrab from a video uploaded by "Journey to the Microcosmos"  / YouTube.

Representative image. Screengrab from a video uploaded by "Journey to the Microcosmos" / YouTube.

During the research, an undergraduate student named Suyash Naik used an atomic force microscope to study Hydra and found that that Young’s modulus at the creature's head is three times greater than at its base.

If you look at things that even the smallest of the creatures in our surrounding can do, you will not be able to stop yourself from being amazed. Hydra, tiny freshwater organisms may not look like a creature, can do things that will leave you amazed. But, if you look at doing the perfect somersaults, you might end up being speechless. Hydra, which is even smaller than the width of a human finger, can turn their bodies and can do a perfect flip over their tentacles.

The science behind this ability of hydra to perform such moves was identified in a recent study, which was explained as due to the difference in tissue stiffness along its body’s length. Not only that, but Hydra can also do a lot of things that may amaze you. One such thing is its ability to regenerate. So, even if you cut it into two, each half will grow into a new body. Hydra also does not show any signs of ageing.

According to a report in The Wire science, an undergraduate student named Suyash Naik at the Indian Institute of Science Education and Research Pune has conducted a study on this organism. His initial motive was to study the effects of regeneration on Hydra’s body but while he was doing the research, he noticed that Hydra tissue is notably stiffer in its region. This gave the study a new direction, he measured the stiffness of Hydra tissue by calculating a property called Young’s modulus, a number that determines how much a certain amount of force can stretch something.

Stretchy objects or things have a low Young modulus number. During the research, Naik used an atomic force microscope to study Hydra and found that Young’s modulus at the creature'shead is three times greater than at its base. There was a sharp decrease in the stiffness from head to toe.

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To be reassured that this change in the stiffness of Hydra was the reason behind its ability to sommersault, researchers disturbed the stiffness of Hydra’s shoulder. It resulted in Hydra’s inability to perform the somersault. In another bid to get reassured, a computational model of springs with the right stiffness was created and were able to replicate Hydra’s motion with it.

The researchers’ a study which was led by Sanjeev Galande and Shivprasad Patil at IISER Pune was published on October 29, 2020.

first published:April 06, 2021, 12:55 IST