For many animals, to stick is to survive. Nature's varied adhesive structures and substances enable animals to stick to inert substrates, to each other, and even to parts of themselves. An octopus uses its suckers to grab food, a gecko coordinates its highly specialized feet to ascend a wall, and a mussel emits strings of proteinaceous goo to hold fast to a rock in times of turbulence. Insects coordinate their jumping motions by choreographing contact of leg parts. Some species can even multitask. The tube feet of echinoderms, for example, can specialize for attachment and locomotion, or feeding and burrowing.

A symposium at the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology's annual meeting in Anaheim, Calif., Jan. 2-6, celebrated the natural engineering wonders of adhesion. Explained Ciprien Gay, a polymer scientist at the National Center for Scientific Research in Bordeaux, France, "Adhesion is what happens at the interfaces between solids."...

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