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Sandgrouse Takes the Royal Society to Design School

Photo credit: Yathin sk, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

A new episode of ID the Future offers a look at how scientists from MIT and Johns Hopkins University are picking up clever engineering tricks by studying the feather design of the Namaqua sandgrouse. Ordinary bird feathers are already a master class in ingenious design, but as Jochen Mueller and Lorna Gibson show in a recent Royal Society Interface paper, the males of this desert-dwelling sandgrouse from southwestern Africa “have specially adapted feathers on their bellies that hold water, even during flight, allowing the birds to transport water back to the chicks at the nest.” Episode guest Brian Miller talks with host Casey Luskin about the details of the ingenious design and tells how these feathers are inspiring human inventions, one of which could help desert communities collect water from the air more efficiently. Dr. Miller takes listeners through a summary of other inventions inspired by designs in biology. He discusses how this invention strategy is proving so fruitful that it’s now treated as an interdisciplinary subdiscipline, known as biomimetics.

Download the podcast or listen to it here. For more from Miller about this exciting field and how it repeatedly highlights evidence of intelligent design in biology, see his chapter in the new book Science and Faith in Dialogue, available as a free digital download.