An animal that is both squishy and soft is not always safe. Rice University conducted some experiments which show that they can harm you. The humble hydra is an example they give.
The hydra is an animal that never ages and will never die of old age. By cutting on in half, you get hydrae with the ability to eat animals twice their sizes.
According to Jacob Robinson, the computer and electrical engineer from Rice University, these squishy things are survivors, so they are worth being studied.
Robinson and the team he leads developed some methods which they can use to corral the hydrae which resemble a tiny squid. They can also study the relationships between the muscle movements of these beasts and their neural activity. The results were published in the Lan on a Chip journal owned by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
Several methods were used by researchers to discover the neural patterns of the hydra Vulgaris’ activities. They expect to be able to compare their brains to the bigger ones.
Robinson is a neuroengineer expertise in microfluidics which means he can manipulate fluids and their contents no matter how small they are. An array of chip-based systems were developed by his lab which enables scientists to sequester biological systems and control movements. They can study them for an extended period of time and up close.
The hydrae measures about half a centimeter in length but they can change shapes if they want. They also come in different sizes which make engineers engage in a more complicated challenge.
“C. elegans (roundworms) and hydrae have similarities,” Robinson said. “They’re small and transparent and have relatively few neurons, and that makes it easier to observe the activity of every brain cell at the same time.”