Mechanics without Muscle: Biomechanical inspiration from the plant world

Patrick T. Martone, Michael Boiler, Ingo Burgert, Jacques Dumais, Joan Edwards, Katharine MacH, Nick Rowe, Markus Rueggeberg, Robin Seidel, Thomas Speck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Scopus citations


Synopsis Plant and animal biomechanists have much in common. Although their frame of reference differs, they think about the natural world in similar ways. While researchers studying animals might explore airflow around flapping wings, the actuation of muscles in arms and legs, or the material properties of spider silk, researchers studying plants might explore the flow of water around fluttering seaweeds, the grasping ability of climbing vines, or the material properties of wood. Here we summarize recent studies of plant biomechanics highlighting several current research themes in the field: expulsion of high-speed reproductive projectiles, generation of slow movements by shrinking and swelling cell walls, effects of ontogenetic shifts in mechanical properties of stems, flexible reconfiguration and material properties of seaweeds under crashing waves, and the development of botanically-inspired commercial products. Our hope is that this synopsis will resonate with both plant and animal biologists, encourage cross-pollination across disciplines, and promote fruitful interdisciplinary collaborations in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)888-907
Number of pages20
JournalIntegrative and Comparative Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2010


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