The reason (as if you need a reason to play with Lego!) is this. As part of my next experiments with wolf spiders, I want to look at how leg loss affects their ability to move over obstacles and rough terrain. In their natural habitat, after all, they have to negotiate obstacles like leaves, twigs and stones, all the time – including immediately after they’ve lost a leg due to predation, or getting stuck.
I’m interested in how, or if, losing legs changes their movement over rough terrain. Will their speed decrease? Will there be any obvious changes in the way they negotiate obstacles? Does this change depending on which legs are lost? These are all questions I’d like to be able to answer. This is really interesting biologically, but also has real applications to things like legged robotics – we can potentially adapt our current legged robots to be able to cope with rough terrain after legs have been damaged or lost, like spiders can.
So, that’s the reasoning behind my playing with Lego! Now for the fun pictures!
I started off with a load of colourful Lego…
Firstly I built a big rough terrain arena with varying heights of Lego brick. I wanted to see how high the spiders could climb!
The little wolfies seemed to like the Lego!
Thought I’d lost this little guy for a while. Turns out he’s just good at hide & seek!
I then tried out a Lego rough terrain ‘runway’ on a narrower baseplate. This had walls down the side so (in theory) the spider would have to run the length of the runway.
After these tests, I discovered that normal Lego bricks are a bit too high for my wolf spiders. They can climb one, but to climb two stacked on top of each other, they either need a step up, or for it to be along one of the edge walls.
So, after scouring the internet for smaller alternatives to Lego (Nanoblocks and Loz Blocks) and chatting to people, I realised I could just try using the ‘plates’ that you get in a Lego kit. So my next step was to rebuild my rough terrain runway using various numbers of plates stacked on top of each other to get a variety of heights.
Success! This was much better. The spiders can climb plates stacked up to 3 high without much trouble. They can even do 4 at a push!
Then I got playing with my hand lens to make giant spiders through the Perspex, and I decided it was time to call it a day.
So, my Lego experiment conclusions: Lego is awesome, and I want to play with it all day!! But seriously, it was a good testing afternoon. I’ve ordered a load of 2×2 Lego plates in white (so they contrast with the dark spider, making it easier to track them on the high-speed videos I’ll take!), so once they arrive I can construct a rough terrain arena of random heights!
Now, I’ve just got to go clear all this Lego away…
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