3 min read

Nature's Secret Agents: How Geckos Are Able To Walk On The Ceiling

<p>Flickr: Storm Crypt</p>

Climbing up walls and running upside down across ceilings may seem like special effects reserved for action movies, but they're an everyday reality for geckos. These minute reptiles are known for being incredibly agile, even on the most vertical and slippery of surfaces. But how do these little lizards manage to accomplish this superhero-like feat?

According to recent research from Oregon State University, gecko feet are covered in tiny little hairs which are called "seta" and based on what study co-author Alex Greaney found, "these seta and their hierarchy can deform to make intimate contact with even very rough surfaces -- resulting in millions of contact points that each are able to carry a small load."

Flickr: Bernat Casero

The most fascinating aspect of the study is the discovery that geckos are able to switch this function on and off, and can choose exactly when and where they want to defy gravity. Greaney says that this is due to the geckos utilizing a physical principle called van der Waals force, which is a weak intermolecular force.

This discovery of such a "smart" adhesive system could prove to be potentially useful with further study, according to scientists.

Flickr: Tambako the Jaguar

Though this is a fantastic skill, it should be noted that geckos aren't superheroes, and are just as susceptible to negative environmental impacts as other animals. There are some gecko species which are bordering on extinction, due to exotic pet trade and habitat destruction.

It is extremely important to leave a gecko alone if you should spot one in the wild -- though, of course, visual observation is always encouraged for those who are curious about the little critters!