BBC Nature - Porcupine’s Prickly Defence Mystery Solved
The findings are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“We were surprised that no one had previously reported the forces required to remove quills from tissue,” said Dr Karp.
“And I think [we were] most surprised to find that not only do the backwards-facing barbs make the quills difficult to remove, they significantly reduce the penetration force.
“To our knowledge this is the first demonstration of a highly engineered system that achieves polar-opposite dual functionality.”
In terms of the potential applications of such barbed structures, Dr Karp suggested they could help in the design of both needles that cause less injury and adhesives to help hold tissue together.
“For needles, we envision we could use ‘swell-able’ or degradable barbs, to enable easy penetration and easy removal,” said Dr Karp.