Seemingly Weird Research Topics Actually Serve a Purpose!

Shrimp on treadmills, snail sex, and gecko feet: You name it, scientists have researched it. Some areas of research just sound bizarre, but in fact these offbeat topics have led to interesting developments in science.

Research into what makes gecko feet sticky helped a research team invent Geckskin, an adhesive that can attach a 700 lb. weight to a smooth surface on an index-card sized pad. This odd scientific search turned into an application that no one could have predicted!

Snail sex may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about genomic effects on reproduction, but it turns out that snails can reproduce either sexually or asexually. The ability to do both makes snails a great test subject for studying the influence of the genome on different kinds of reproduction.

So, gecko feet and snail sex may have led to interesting discoveries, but what do shrimp on treadmills have to do with scientific research?

Marine biologist David Scholnick and his colleagues studied how changes in the oceans could impact the ability of marine organisms to fight off bacterial infection – research that could ultimately affect the safety of seafood consumed by humans. Because shrimp are active creatures in nature, Scholnick thought it was logical to study their immune response during activity. This insight led him and his colleagues to place shrimp on a specially constructed treadmill. Video images of the exercising shrimp soon went viral. In response to uninformed and inaccurate criticism that cast the project as wasteful spending, Scholnick facetiously offered to sell his shrimp treadmill, which he constructed out of spare parts with less than $50 of his own money, for $1 million. He noted that he would donate all profits towards marine biology research.

Lost in all the publicity was the serious topic underlying the original project: the potentially grave effects of ever-increasing bacterial levels in our oceans.

Science helps us understand our world better, and, as it turns out, even these weird research topics are proving to be beneficial in many different areas.