To understand how these motions create a burrow despite the foot’s weedy nature, Winter had to capture several clams.
Winter’s videos revealed that when the clam contracts its valves, it does more than just pump the foot with blood.
Winter used his newfound knowledge to create RoboClam: a robot that duplicates the clam’s burrowing technique.
After all, so much innovation has already been done by millions of years of trial and error, why reinvent the clam? I hope the humble clam will get some form of royalties, for this blatant theft of its technology. In the future, these inflatable modules could be used to construct a space habitat, or hotel. Who We ArePhenomena is a gathering of spirited science writers who take delight in the new, the strange, the beautiful and awe-inspiring details of our world.
Erika Engelhaupt is the online science editor at National Geographic and manages the Phenomena blog network.


Maryn McKenna is an award-winning journalist and the author of Superbug and Beating Back the Devil.
DisclaimerThe views expressed are those of the writer and are not necessarily those of the National Geographic Society. These edible animals can bury themselves at around one centimetre per second, and they go deep. Based on measurements of the foot’s strength, Amos Winter from Massachussetts Institute of Technology calculated that it should only be able to dig a couple of centimetres into the mud. It’s about the size of a lighter, but it comes with a much larger supportive frame of pistons and regulating elements. Phenomena is hosted by National Geographic magazine, which invites you to join the conversation. No Place Like Home is her space to talk about space—from other worlds to the fabric of the universe.
Laelaps is his writing laboratory, dedicated to sifting through natural history for tales of evolution, extinction, and survival.


Not Exactly Rocket Science is his hub for talking about the awe-inspiring, beautiful and quirky world of science to as many people as possible. After further development, RoboClam could act as a lightweight anchor that could be easily set and unset. The animal was trapped between two transparent plates, filmed with high-speed cameras, and surrounded by a ‘beach’ of glass beads. It offers far less resistance, and the clam can move through it with around ten times less energy.




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