University of California, Berkeley, researchers studied how lizards manage to leap successfully even when they slip and stumble, swinging their tail upward to prevent a forward pitch that could send them head-over-heels into a tree.
Agile therapod dinosaurs like the velociraptor may have used their tails as stabilizers to prevent forward pitch researchers said.
The scientists added a tail to a robotic car they named Tailbot and discovered both robots and lizards have to adjust the angle of their tail just right to counteract the effect of the stumble.
Given an actively controlled tail, even robots can make a leap and remain upright, the found.
"We showed for the first time that lizards swing their tail up or down to counteract the rotation of their body, keeping them stable," research leader Robert J. Full said in a UC Berkeley release Wednesday. "Inspiration from lizard tails will likely lead to far more agile search-and-rescue robots, as well as ones having greater capability to more rapidly detect chemical, biological or nuclear hazards."