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Animals are incredibly good at adapting to changes in their environment, a trait envied by most roboticists. Many animals use different gaits to seamlessly transition between land and water and move through non-uniform terrains. In addition to adjusting to changes in their environment, animals can adjust their locomotion to deal with missing or regenerating limbs. Salamanders are an amphibious group of animals that can regenerate limbs, tails, and even parts of the spinal cord in some species. After the loss of a limb, the salamander successfully adjusts to constantly changing morphology as it regenerates the missing part. This quality is of particular interest to roboticists looking to design devices that can adapt to missing or malfunctioning components. While walking, an intact salamander uses its limbs, body, and tail to propel itself along the ground. Its body and tail are coordinated in a distinctive wave-like pattern. Understanding how their bending kinematics change as they regrow lost limbs would provide important information to roboticists designing amphibious machines meant to navigate through unpredictable and diverse terrain. We amputated both hindlimbs of blue-spotted salamanders (Ambystoma laterale) and measured their body and tail kinematics as the limbs regenerated. We quantified the change in the body wave over time and compared them to an amphibious fish species, Polypterus senegalus. We found that salamanders in the early stages of regeneration shift their kinematics, mostly around their pectoral girdle, where there is a local increase in undulation frequency. Amputated salamanders also show a reduced range of preferred walking speeds and an increase in the number of bending waves along the body. This work could assist roboticists working on terrestrial locomotion and water to land transitions.


This article was originally published in Frontiers in Robotics, volume 8, in 2021.


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.