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«James Walker 1st year DPhil, Interdisciplinary Bioscience Doctoral Training Partnership Supervised by Prof Fritz Vollrath and Dr Beth Mortimer Oxford ...»

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If a spider system is used which does show regeneration, the integration of legs of different sizes into the stepping pattern could be explored using techniques developed in this study in addition investigations into the sensory morphology of regenerated appendages. With additional time, a more sophisticated gait analysis setup could be adopted using a locomotion compensator, such as that developed by Kramer (1975). This would involve attaching the spider above a styrofoam sphere that is rotated by motors to compensate for the subject’s movement keeping it on top of the sphere facilitating an improved data acquisition setup with automated gait analysis.

The regeneration of legs in running spiders provides a system to further investigate the role of sensory information in control as signals are not completely removed but modified peripherally in response to changes in leg morphology. The addition of new sensory information from regenerated legs would presumably result in modifications to the control algorithm providing a useful insight into the mechanism of morphological computation. Whilst moulting and regeneration in spiders is a discontinuous process, inspiration can be gained from this control system to tackle a key problem for soft robotics: the design of control systems for adaptable, compliant robots showing continuous morphological change (Calisti et al., 2011). I conclude my study with the suggestion that the sensory basis of spider walking is likely to provide useful guidelines for the design of embodied controllers that do not require complex central programming but can outsource much of the computation to adaptable peripheral sensors.


I would like to thank Prof Fritz Vollrath for supervising my project, for introducing me to the field of soft robotics and for many interesting discussions and comments throughout project and on earlier versions of this report. I am grateful to Dr Beth Mortimer who helped with the spider identification, experimental setup, statistical techniques and gave comments on several drafts of this manuscript.

Finally, I thank Nick Hawkins for help with the housing and maintenance of spiders. This work was funded by a BBSRC PhD studentship grant.


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KRAMER, E. 1975. Orientation of the male silkmoth to the sex attractant bombycol. Olfaction and Taste. Academic Press, New York.

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