Female parasitic wasps lay their eggs in larvae of other insects that are often hidden in plants, trees or underground. In order to reach these larvae, wasps have a long flexible needle-like tube (the ovipositor) that they can direct in various materials with the muscles in their abdomen.
Wasps as inspiration for needles
Researchers from the Experimental Zoology group recorded how the wasps lay their eggs in various transparent gels using high-speed cameras. They published their findings in 2017 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The results are used to design advanced controllable needles for medical applications together with TU Delft.
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Tree frogs as a design for soft grip
The research group Experimental Zoology studies through reverse engineering these smart mechanisms and strategies in animals to then translate them into designs of new surgical instruments. For example, the soft adhesive pads on the fingers of tree frogs with which they can attach themselves to wet surfaces form inspiration for soft grippers that can be used in operations in the human body.