Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the cheetah, the cat that can outrun every other land animal with short spurts of speed up to 75 miles per hour. Cheetahs have large tails that they can whip and that allow them to quickly maneuver while involved in high speed chases after their prey. When the cheetah jumps its rear legs in the air, and swings its tail to one side, conservation of momentum pushes the legs to the opposite side of the tail enabling fast changes in its body orientation.
Cheetah Quick-Turn Chase
Animals have been designed with tails for all sorts of purposes. Mammals, especially, often use their tails to help with balance. This is true for domestic dogs and cats that have tails. I recently learned about an unusual animal found in the wild only on the island of Madagascar. It lives in the dense forests found there. It resembles a cat but is not a cat. It has a muzzle like a dog but is not a dog. It has a large tail like a monkey but is not a monkey. This animal is called a “fossa” (Cryptoprocta ferox). I would say it is another of those animals I have been writing about called mosaics, like the platypus and the penguin. Secular scientists say it is thought to be related to the mongoose, and they have identified the fossa as vulnerable to extinction due to habitat loss in Madagascar. The fossa can grow to be six feet long, has retractable claws, and sharp teeth. It is adept at climbing trees and living on the limbs of trees.
The amazing fact associated to this article is that the fossa has a large tail that is about half the length of the animal. This tail is engineered to allow the fossa to thrive in the forest either on the ground or up in the trees. Its tail helps with balance as with a dog, but it also is adapted to assist its maneuverability as it cavorts from limb to limb while hunting its food up in the trees of the forest. Fossa eat small mammals, fish, lizards, birds, frogs, and insects; but about ½ of its diet is comprised of lemur monkeys. The live fossa I saw was at the Abilene (Texas) Zoo and was clearly at home on the ground or in the large multi-branched tree inside its enclosure.
Fossa Running Along a Branch
Robots with Tails
So what does this discussion of cheetah and fossa tails have to do with robots? For many years engineers have used natural analogues to assist in their robot designs. This is also known as the science of biomimicry. It is not hard to understand that this research has resulted in learning that a quadrupedal robot would have an advantage over a wheeled robot when it comes to traveling over rough terrain. Therefore, the current state-of-the-art for robots that need to travel over non-even terrain is the quadruped design.
The latest innovation for these dog-like robots is to consider the addition of tails. This idea comes from research that has shown that a robotic tail is helpful for the maneuverability of quadruped robots, and initial indications are that articulated robot tails will even allow for higher stable speeds for these types of robots. Should we be surprised that incorporating God’s engineering into man’s designs results in better products? I think not!
While this tail research for quadruped robots looks to be promising, I expect that it will be some time before tails on these robots will actually be able to show measurable operational improvement. As an engineer, it seems to me that it will be much easier to show advantages in speed by mimicing the design of the cheetah tail than it will be to come up with a fossa-tail robot that can climb trees.
I continue to be embarrassed by the ongoing comments by some of my engineering colleagues that attribute all of the engineering and design that they are mimicing to Darwinian evolution. Clearly they are simply accepting the statements of authority figures about the cause for this design. They should be observant enough to see that there is no evidence for this sort of macroevolution anywhere in the creation. But then I think back to remember that for much of my engineering career I did exactly the same thing. I really had no excuse as they have no excuse.
For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so people are without excuse. (Romans 1:20 NIV)
*The source for the information on the robot tails is the American Society of Mechanical Engineers at: