May 7 - A newly described species of spider that can cart-wheel its way out of danger has inspired a German engineer to develop an energy-saving robot he says could be ideal for exploring Mars in the future. Ben Gruber has more.
It's called Cebrennus rechenbergi, but it's nick-named the flic-flac spider for its ability to do this. The spider was discovered by Dr. Ingo Rechenberg in the Moroccan desert in 2009, but was officially described and named only last month. It is the only known arachnid with the ability to double its speed by cart-wheeling out of dangerous situations, and Rechenberg, who's been studying desert animals for thirty years, says he was inspired the moment he first saw it in action. A German bionics expert, he set about building a robot that could mimic the flic-flac. He says such a machine would be ideal for navigating the harsh surface conditions of Mars. Although it will have to have greater stamina than the spider.. If the flic-flac cart-wheels more than 4 or 5 times a day Rechenberg says it can die of exhaustion. Rechenberg says his robot will need to be a lot more resilient to explore the surface of Mars.